Mountain Thunder Shares Passion for Coffee
by Amy Hoff
Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation is, in a word, magical. In a fairyland of ohia and jungle vines, it is a ghostly oasis in the mist. Ohia branches become visible through the mist like the fingers of forgotten gods. The haunting atmosphere is relieved by the explosion of colors around you. It is a peaceful and welcoming place.
Trent Bateman, the man behind Mountain Thunder, is an engineer. He left the machine repair business when he realized that he would be able to use his expertise for the machinery involved in coffee making. Coffee was an active, busy industry with a tourism overlap, which Mr. Bateman found appealing. Lisa, his wife, did not like the stifling bookkeeping work while they were operating the repair business, and looked forward to the move to coffee, where she felt there was more room for creativity.
Mountain Thunder is a unique plantation for several reasons. First, because it is a family-run farm, and the largest organic coffee farm in the United States. Mr. Bateman’s engineering background ensures the peak performance of the machines, and Mountain Thunder has state-of-the-art equipment and roasting technology. They also use Chinese geese, St Croix sheep, and a new addition - Kona Nightingale donkeys- to provide manure as well as weed control. They are also friendly to other farmers seeking advice or help; they believe the more organic production, the better.
New products include coffee soap, which helps to prevent skin cancer, acne and cellulite as well as promoting cell renewal, and Coffee Flower honey.
The Batemans think there has been an increased interest in organic foods. Organic coffee has twice the antioxidants and provides for a smoother drink. Coffee has more antioxidants than tea, and helps caner of the colon, prostate, and mouth. There are more organic farmers now than when the Batemans started their farm, and there has been a 10% growth in organic consumables every year. The Batemans own 35 organic acres in all, in additon to 100 acres of regular Kona coffee. Because of this, the organic farms benefit from the more expensive factories that are affordable because of their other farms. Mountain Thunder also buys a lot of coffee locally; they nurtured 12 other organic coffee farms that grow the product for them as well.
Mountain Thunder has been featured in several television shows and magazines. They were featured on the recent Discovery Channel program “Dirty Jobs”, the Food Network’s “Unwrapped”, and “Big Eye Hawai’i”.
Mountain Thunder is also the Official Gevalia Cupping Contest master mill and roastery (the Kona Cultural Festival Cupping Contest). Trent Bateman is the Event Director, Lisa is the Milling Coordinator, and their daughter, Brooke, is the Roasting Coordinator.
Mountain Thunder has won several awards with Brooke as roastmaster. They have never entered a contest they did not win. They won the Spring Blossom contest, which later changed its name to Cream of the Crop, three years running. They won a variety of awards, from gold to silver medals in different categories, both people’s choice and chef ’s choice. Brooke also supervises the plantation’s coffee bar.
Mountain Thunder is offering tours. Currently, the tour begins with a short video from the Food Channel, coffee samples, and a walk around the plantation. On tours, you will be able to visit all the animals at Mountain Thunder and learn the process of making coffee from seed to cup. Visitors will be able to experience pulping through fermentation, husking, and grading as well as roasting. With an appointment you can be roastmaster for a day as the Batemans teach you how to roast your own coffee. Mountain Thunder is #1 on the tour map for Kona’s Historic Coffee Corridor, which is available in several magazines. For a tour, just show up anytime Monday-Friday from 9-5, and weekends by appointment. There are lunches available for private tours if you call ahead. There is no cost for a tour of Mountain Thunder Coffee.
As the sun set red behind the mist, I followed Lisa down to watch her feed the geese. They ran to her, flapping their wings and honking. When I left, she gave me a hug and said it was wonderful to meet me. The Batemans truly love their work and are full of smiles for any visitor who comes through the front gates. Visiting Mountain Thunder was a wonderful experience, and I would do it again, just to see people living their passion.
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Story appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and appears online for archival purposes only. Any use or reprinting of these stories without the expressed written consent of the author is prohibited.