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Crafting a better brew for a better tomorrow

Updated: May 9, 2021

9 farming methods to a more sustainable cup

Every day is a new day, a new opportunity to cease climate change and build even stronger communities. While many lawless variables contribute to the increased fragility of our precious planet, we must remain vigilant in our able contributions to honor Mother Earth. When we established Ulu Coffee back in 2018, we had many questions. (and still do!) While we’re always learning, we were and still are certain of a few things.

Those things, our values, were to protect and preserve our unique ecosystems and overall biodiversity, to care for each other and our local communities, and to share the spirit of Aloha through an excellent cup of Kona coffee. We learned all of these things by the example of our neighbors and are all things we intend to lead with to continue to set those examples. Here are 9 sustainable farming practices we champion at Ulu Coffee.

Hand harvesting

For centuries, coffee farmers in Kona have woven a sacred value into the process of cultivation. Taking care of the land is as integral as it is a responsibility. Hand-harvesting without the use of machinery is a practice that defines traditional methods of coffee processing in Kona. Partly due to the impracticality of machinery (The volcanic soils are much too friable and steep to maintain the use of machinery). And partly due to the inherent and deep-rooted relationship Hawaiians have with the land.

Our coffee cherries are hand-picked at peak ripeness, rinsed, pulped, then sun-dried under the drying shack by raking three times a day for a couple of weeks.

No irrigation

Rather than redirect water from our rivers and underground reservoirs, we rely only on rain to water our trees. Our elevated location in a volcanic microclimate is a gift and a reminder of our interconnectedness with the world. As Trade winds reach the volcanoes, the air condenses, forming cloud cover and an abundance of rain for our coffee trees.

No chemical or toxic sprays

We prohibit the use of harmful, chemical, and toxic sprays. While the use of fertilizers and organic sprays is necessary to provide adequate nutrients and protect against pests, we are sure to source treatments that can only help improve our soil health and overall biodiversity.

Local sourcing

From our keiki coffee trees to natural fertilizers and even our merchandise, we source as many goods and necessities as possible from our small, local farms and communities. Also sourced from our local community, our knowledge and complete understanding of traditional coffee farming in Kona. Without our neighbors and likely their parents--and their parents, parents--we would never be where we are today.

Supporting small businesses

When it comes to our wholesale partnerships, we cherish relationships with our small vendors. We promote the small family business because we are, too, a small family business. We enjoy knowing and shaking hands with the faces who help us share Aloha and deliver our product to the hearts of the Chicago community. From the specialty roaster to the brick and mortar, you'll find our support down the street and around the corner because shopping local and supporting small business builds stronger communities.

Fair wage labor

Purchases made from Ulu helps support fair and livable wage employment in the United States. While Kona coffee can sometimes come to many as sticker-shock, it's important to remember that human hands painstakingly help produce our quality Kona coffee. We are fortunate to live in a country where we can take care of the families who help take care of our families.

Recyclable packaging

One of our core values is to deliver quality fresh Kona every single time. That said, and full disclosure, we found it to be a considerable challenge when faced with compromising sustainability for quality. Admittedly, until we can find 100% compostable packaging that delivers the product we share today, we'll continue to lead with consciousness and grace. That said, our Biotrē coffee bags are made of 60% biodegradable wood pulp and 40% polyethylene (the liner) containing an enzyme that breaks down much faster than a conventional fossil-fuel-based liner.

Plant diversity

Ulu's five and a half-acre lot is home to many different varieties of plant life and wildlife. From coffee trees to cinnamon, mango, and banana, there's an abundance of diversity growing on our small farm. This can actually help in reducing nutrient loss in the ecosystems and leads to long-term increased ecosystem carbon and nutrient stores.

Regenerative solutions

We look to natural and indigenous ingredients and fertilizers to help aid in yield production. While our microclimate is unmatched, the help of our bees' pollination and various other microbes through compost and fermentation can go a long way to promote a healthy crop. If there ever were a way to slow climate change, we believe the answer could be in the soils.

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