Farmers Markets You can now find us at Farmers Market on the Big Island, we hope to see you soon...
Your most discerning tastes will recognize the quality in every cup. The years of hard work have paid off. We are proud to offer such a superior gourmet coffee.
Our savory coffee is similar to fine wine; meticulously tended and carefully processed, aged and roasted. Downes Grounds 100% Pure Kona Coffee has a unique full body, with flavor that finishes smooth and clean.
We invite you to join our family, as people have done from all over the world! Our goal is to bring communities together, to educate coffee drinkers and share the rich history of Holualoa and 100% Kona Coffee.
Welcome! We would like to share our little slice of paradise with you... this is how our farm came to be.
My father, Bill Downes, has lived here in Kona, Hawaii for forty years. Originally from Chicago, he spent his summers on the lake shore in Northern Wisconsin. Years later, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, he met a young woman who was also from Northern Wisconsin. My brothers and I were born and raised in a small, one room coffee shack in the middle of the Hawaiian jungle.
Job after job, project after project and year after year, the jungle was cleared, the house was built and the fields were planted. For the last 35 years the Downes family has been working together to create a unique tasting, smooth cup of coffee that you are sure to enjoy.
The small size of our farm is what distinguishes us from most coffee farms in Kona. This allows us to carefully monitor and observe changes in the environment, soil and trees; our coffee trees are carefully pruned, fertilized, and maintained throughout the year according to growth, rain and the seasons. By carefully tending our coffee trees, we are able to ensure the full, robust flavor that is found in every cup of Downes Grounds.
We do everything we can to make sure our coffee trees are happy and healthy but we cannot stress enough the importance of where our trees are planted. The Downes Grounds farm is located in Holualoa, the heart of the famous Kona Coffee Belt on the Big Island of Hawaii. All coffee that bears the name "Kona Coffee" must be grown in an area that is only three miles wide and twenty miles long. It is here, in this very specific location - in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and on the side of an active volcano - that the perfect coffee-growing conditions exist. The soil in Holualoa is rich and dark, packed with nutrients and deep! We farm using organic farming practices that include mulching regularly and using worm castings to sweeten the soil.
The climate of Holualoa is another vital contributing factor to this amazing coffee. Warm sunny mornings, afternoon rain showers, and cool crisp nights year round provides the ideal coffee growing conditions giving our trees the chance to grow and flourish. The high elevation of or farm allows for our beans to grow extremely large making most of our beans Extra Fancy grade!
In the early spring we hand-prune each tree individually using the "Kona Style" ensuring the health of each tree. We keep a watchful eye on the trees year round from flowering to bean. Carefully maintained throughout the summer months our amazing Kona Coffee begins to ripen in the fall. When the beans are super red we hand-pick and pulp the cherry right here on the farm. We ferment the beans bins over night and the next morning after a good washing the beans are spread onto the drying deck to bask in the Hawaiian sun. We age the beans in a humidity controlled environment allowing the bean to cure before roasting. After Dry milling and grading, we roast weekly to ensure the ultimate freshness!
We are sure that you will enjoy your Downes Grounds 100% Pure Kona Coffee as we put our hearts into growing the best, smoothest 100% Kona Coffee available.
Aloha & Mahalo...
Brief History of Kona Coffee
By Mike Craig
BIRTH OF A PRODUCT
Kona Coffee is a cultural tradition that's been carried on since Samuel Ruggles first brought arabica coffee to Kona in 1828. This plant was amazingly adaptable to all situations in the Kona area. Even in the beginning Americans and Europeans realized what a wonderful marriage took place between Arabica coffee and Kona's calm, unique climate and rich volcanic soil.
Mark Twain was so impressed with this marriage, that in his book Letters From Hawaii he stated " I think kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other." As early as 1842 there was a duty tax imposed on all foreign coffee brought into the Kingdom of Hawaii. This protective measure wasn't enough because the crop was still devastated by the white scale blight in the 1850's. This pest would eventually be brought under control with the introduction of the Australian beetle. Still, Hawaiians forged ahead with the first coffee mill in Napoopoo in 1850.
CULTURAL TRANSITION AND GROWTH
The growing of Kona coffee has been the love of many different cultures. This melting of many cultures into a small geographic area and a limited product makes Kona coffee one of the more romantic coffees in the world. Starting in the 1880's, waves of different cultures came to escape sugar contracts or other adverse situations. The Chinese came first. Then the Japanese. At this time bigger plantations were broken into smaller plots of land where Hawaiians and others could make a living off a piece of land no bigger than five acres. A new community agricultural based economy was developing with a mixture of Hawaiian, Asian, European and other cultures. Their Techniques had given Kona coffee a very good world reputation by the turn of the century. At this time over 6000 acres of coffee was planted in North Kona alone. A real commercial industry was beginning to take shape.
W W Brunner built the first mill in South Kona and he is credited with planting large sections of coffee trees in that district. Many of these very trees are still being cultivated today. In 1906 many farmers and mills consolidated to form Captain Cook Coffee Company. Once again the industry was set back by a blight of black fungus.
This brings us to the 1920's when things started looking better again. American Factors under the brand name "Mayflower" developed a large market for Kona coffee. In the 1920's Busaco Sato started an independent co-operative.
By the 1930's Kona coffee was one of the most prosperous products on the island chain. The government even changed the school schedules so that the children would be available to help during the harvest season. Like many products coffee took a setback during WW II. However production levels began to rise fast after the war. In 1956 American Factors sold their interest in their mill to Kona Coffee Cooperative. There were many small farms growing coffee on tall trees, where they used ladders (on the hilly rocky Kona grounds) and a strong local labor force that had individual trees yielding as much as 40 pounds. Many small Hoshidonnas (small self-contained pulping mills with drying decks under rolling roofs) were producing loads of parchment to be sold to large processing plants. Over 5000 acres of coffee were planted in Kona at this time.
In the mid 1960's the cooperative mill of American Factors was sold to Sunset Mills. A gobbling up of small mills began to take place so that by 1970 there were only three mills left on the whole Kona Coast, and only two by 1978. This domination combined with a small market base had an adverse effect on farming and farmers. An influx of entrepreneurial farmers and millers initiated a new industry based on new markets and old style farming practices brought higher quality back into Kona coffee. Quality and consistency seems to be the edge that has kept Kona coffee alive during many frustrating times. The 1968 State of Hawaii grading standards also helped improve quality. Quality is always better with hands on personal touch and caring for the crop.
Even a horrendous drought in the 1980's couldn't slow down the interest in Kona coffee farming. The one thing that set back the coffee industry was the dropping of cherry prices to farmers. This was dramatically illustrated at the end of the 1980's when the price to the farmer went from $1.00 per pound of cherry to $.40 per pound in one month. These price fluctuations, drought, blights and many other obstacles, have not stopped this wonderful multi-cultural agrarian way of life. There are still over 600 farms producing quality Kona coffee on over 2000 acres of land. In fact in 1989 Consumer Magazine reported that Kona Coffee was the best out of 41 coffees tasted.
In 1991 to establish some truth in labeling and to help protect the name Kona, House Bill #289 was passed with a Hawaii State minimum blend law of 10%. In 1993 The Kona Coffee council, A non-profit organization, by direction of its farmers and processors voted to register the name Kona Coffee to protect the name as a distinct growing area. This area certainly has a very rich, courageous and diversified agriculture product. It makes perfect sense that the farmers and processors of this area would want to make sure that their farming practices and that their coffee would be protected.
Through this brief history you can see Kona Coffee has gone through tremendous ups and downs. It has been transitions in traditions and traditions in transitions. These same trees have been courageously cultivated by many generations of different cultures clinging to a way of life. Love of the bean and of farming and its lifestyle explains how they made it through these peaks and valleys. It is a credit to these many generations of farmers. This beautiful but difficult way of life has created farming techniques going back one hundred and sixty years. These techniques and lifestyles are pretty much the same today. However even as you read this traditions are still in transition in Kona Coffee.
TRANSITIONS IN THE HISTORY OF KONA COFFEE TODAY
1. There has been more emphasis on marketing Kona Coffee as a 100% product this has raised the consumer awareness and increased demand for 100% Kona Beans.
2. Estate programs are busting out everywhere on the Kona Coast. There are independent labels representing a new cottage industry in Kona Coffee. Even two-acre farms are able to sell their crop under their own independent labels. The help of modern communications has increased farmer's ability to deal directly with wholesale and retail customers.
3. Organic farming is not really new; but is farming the way they use to before synthetically man made products were used. Certified organic farmers are receiving more money for their cherries. The markets for certified organic coffees are also expanding. It does cost more to farm organically because it is more labor intensive than conventional farming and inputs are more costly. Certified organic is more than "claimed" organic, certified organic means that an independent inspection and a paper trail of farming practices has been kept.
Have you ever been at home and had nothing to eat? The refrigerator is bare, everything in the freezer looks like too much work and you even tried the spooky looking box of crackers in the back of the pantry, and boy were they stale. For most this maybe a problem, but here on the Downes Grounds Farm there is one more option. I refer to it as the Hungry Boy's Walk.
The Hungry Boy's Walk is not a difficult trek. Just walk out the front door and see what we can find to eat growing here on the farm. As you probably already figured out, we have a whole lot of coffee trees. Now, red coffee beans, right off the tree make a good little snack to start the walk. I throw the whole bean in my mouth, pulp the bean out of the skin with my teeth and suck on the sugary sweet, slimy bean. It makes for a great mid-work day flavor boost, but coffee beans are not good for filling your tummy, so we'll keep looking.
It doesn't take long for the Hungry Boy's Walk to pay off. Just above the coffee field are a couple of Macadamia Nut trees. I hope you have pockets because the ground is covered in little brown nuts, about the size of a large marble. Some of the nuts have a softer husk on the outside which can be peeled off by hand to expose the hard shelled nut, but there is no way that you will be able to crack that shell to expose the tasty white, buttery nut inside. So, fill your pockets and when we get near the shop we will use the vice and a hammer to crack 'em open.
Enough is enough. We have made two stops on the Hungry Boy's Walk and we still haven't put anything in our tummys. I don't know about you but I am hungry! Luckily, near the Mac Nut trees, is one of the many Banana patches here on the farm. Here you go. Try this. A bright yellow banana directly from the tree! This bunch needs to be harvested. Usually, once the first banana turns yellow we cut the stalk off the tree and hang it near the garage for a quick snack. Problem is, we have so many banana trees, that we have way too many bananas to possibly eat before they go bad. But we don't let them go to waste. We go around the farm with the tractor collecting hundred pound stalk after hundred pound stalk of ripe bananas. We set up a little assembly line, made up of my brothers and my mom. One person will pick and peel the bananas. The next person will cut the bananas into thin slices and pass them on to the third person who places the slices on the racks of the food dehydrator. Once the bananas are peeled, sliced and placed in the dehydrator over night we have healthy dried banana snacks for days. But don't worry; we won't make you slave labor the banana line today. Let's keep moving.
This is my favorite spot on the Hungry Boy's Tour, the Lychee tree! Have you ever seen a Lychee? It is a white, fleshy fruit with a real rough red skin. I could post up under this tree and eat lychee all day! Try one. Grab it, and pull it off the stem. Now, bite the skin or use your hands to break it open. Take off the red skin and discard it. Pop the sweet goodness in your mouth but watch out for the brown football shaped seed inside. Good huh? As we say here in Hawaii, "Broke da mouth".
Across the drive way from the Lychee tree are the apple trees. We have over a half dozen Anna Apple trees planted here on the property. At fifteen years old these trees are really starting to come into their prime. The apples are getting bigger and sweeter by the year and the other neighborhood kids really like them too. They do the Hungry Boy's Walk too, picking other people's fruit, slyly. It reminds me of when I was that age, cruising around the coffee fields on my bicycle, with a BB gun and a belly full of Guavas, also known as Passion Fruit. Not only did I used to gorge myself on guavas, but guavas are also great ammunition. Guava fights were common place around here. The soft yellow skin allows the fruit to fly through the air, but, it isn't strong enough to keep the pink flesh from splattering all over your brother on impact. So fun! Besides throwing, you can eat the entire fruit, skin, seeds and all. By the way, the guava has a cousin called the Strawberry Guava. It is much smaller than the baseball sized guava, only about the size of a Mac Nut, red in color and really good. Just watch out for the occasional sour one!
You don't have to worry about getting a sour fruit at the next stop on the tour. All of our Papaya trees here on the farm are sweet and fresh as can be. We love our Papayas! Just like the bananas we clean them up and dry them for snacks. But we don't dry them all. After cutting the small football shaped, yellow fruit in half, we scrape out all the little black seeds inside, leaving the orangey-pink flesh inside. Once the fruit meat is removed, and the skin is discarded, we cut the papaya into pieces and freeze them for smoothies. We do this with our bananas as well. Talk about a great snack! Yumm. Cold, refreshing smoothies. Let's stop by the garden and see what's going on over there and then we'll go make a smoothie.
We are still working on our garden right now. I've got some new things planted that I am trying to grow. This year I sprouted and planted these really good orange yams. I love them baked in the oven for 30 minutes or so. Other things you can find in our garden are lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers and herbs. Tell you the truth, my mom is on this new health diet. She'll come out here, pick some lettuce and tomatoes, or grab some frozen fruit from the freezer and throw it all into the blender with some walnuts, almonds and hemp seeds. She has been drinking smoothies for a while now and feels better than ever! I guess you could call it the Hungry Boy's Walk Diet...ha-ha... Sounds good to me! Hey, grab that Avocado off the deck. Our dog Whitey leaves them here for us. She gets them from our many trees and delivers them on the deck for us. Well, let's go in and make one of those Hungry Boy's Walk Smoothies I was telling you about. Then we'll check the Mango and Coconut trees for dessert.
Bill & Debbie Downes