Friday, April 8, 2016

Grandma's Coffee House

Before there was Starbucks, Peet’s Coffee, or Seattle Coffee, there was Grandma’s Coffee. Before the farm-to-table movement gained momentum, before locally grown, locally roasted coffee became uber-hip in Hawaii and elsewhere, Grandma was growing her own coffee cherries and roasting her own beans on the slopes of Haleakala Crater. This was in 1918.

The sign at Grandma's Coffee House, a Maui landmark.

Grandma was before my time, like so many things on Maui. I imagine a wizened woman with gnarled fingers stooped over a table, prying the coffee cherry pulp off the cherished bean inside, one by one. The patience of a saint. I’ve watched friends separate the coffee beans from the coffee fruit. It is mindrackingly slow like shelling fava beans, which I’ve only done once in my life.  

But Grandma was a smart cookie. No gnarled coffee bean fingers for her. Grandma had technology: a coffee huller.

This is what Grandma used to hull coffee: an oversized mortar and pestle, on display to the left of the front door. Still, a good deal of exercise separating the coffee beans from the fruit.

More technology on display: a red coffee grinder under the lucky cat and a brown coffee grinder.
A stained glass portrait of Grandma, done while she was in her 60s or 70s by a family friend. According to Amber who works in the store, this is how she looked in real life.
Today, Grandma’s Coffee House is a Maui landmark, not far from the road to Haleakala Crater. It’s a homey, unpretentious place: irregular wood slab dining tables, cafĂ© chairs, the lucky horseshoe over the entrance, the Japanese lucky cat facing customers, newspaper clippings yellowed with age. You can buy more than organic coffee – there are sandwiches ranging from $8-10, pastries, pasta salads, smoothies, breakfast dishes during breakfast hours, lunch specials, other a la carte menu items from the glass display cases, souvenir t-shirts, dinner on some nights, and even art. 

The interior of Grandma's Coffee House.

Grandma’s coffee shop in Keokea, part of Kula, played a historic role in the development of Maui’s art world. For decades, on Friday mornings, artists and their friends would gather at Grandma’s Coffee around 8 am to talk about art. My jewelry teacher JB Rea recalls heated discussions with cheering and booing around the table.

The story goes that Dick Nelson, who became a legend in the Maui art world, would have breakfast with his students and critique their work. Word got around through the coconut wireless (before internet), and artists like J.B. Rea, George Allan, Jill Christierson, and art lovers showed up to learn about art. Over time, the critiques developed into animated art talks. The core group who breakfasted at Grandma’s helped create Art Maui, an annual prestigious juried art show, and the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao. 
BLT Sandwich at Grandma's.

Chickens and the tabby cat wait for table scraps.
Like pieces from the BLT sandwich.

There is an indoor and outdoor seating area. If you’re lucky, and like cats, there is a tabby cat that will attentively wait for morsels that fall while you’re eating.

Outside the deck, wild black chickens cackle and sneak on the deck when people are not looking to snag leftovers that the cat missed. There are picturesque views of the distant slopes and ocean. 

If you are participating in the A to Z Challenge, please use either Disqus or Facebook to comment below. Please include your link so that I can visit you back, but it might be as late as May! (I'm still not sure I'm fully committed to this because of ahem, the "chicken terracing project," so if I can get through the first week... we'll see.)

Related posts: Art Maui Opening Reception

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