Story by Sarah Ruppenthal
In December of 2020, Sebastian Consiglieri admired the sunrise from his West Maui hotel room as it painted the sky in pastels. He took a sip of the coffee he’d just brewed with the hotel’s pod machine — then immediately poured it down the drain; it was terrible. He inspected the packaging and found that the coffee had been grown thousands of miles away.
I’m on Maui, he thought. I should be drinking Maui-grown coffee.
This sparked an idea, and he called restaurateur Martin Monteverde, a fellow Peruvian whom Consiglieri has known since childhood, and described his experience. The two mapped out a plan for ‘Āina Brands, a company that would bring locally made products to the marketplace while simultaneously honoring Hawai‘i’s land, people and culture. Step one: making delicious coffee.
In August 2021, Consiglieri and Monteverde debuted their ‘Āina Brands Nespresso-
compatible pods filled with red catuaí coffee, which was grown and harvested in Kā‘anapali. Catuaí, which means “very good” in Guaraní, is known as the “cabernet of coffees” because of its hardiness and subtly sweet finish.
Initial goal achieved, the duo next planned to raise crops that are not commercially grown outside of Peru. They leased 10 acres of farmland in Kula and planted two types of peppers as well as choclo, a giant Peruvian corn with stalks that can grow up to 18 feet high. Their mission was successful, and this organic, non-GMO produce will soon be available in local grocery stores — and eventually in other states.
Consiglieri and Monteverde also decided to produce two unique sauces using their Maui-grown peppers: Pacific Gold Aji Amarillo and Pacific Red. To make the sauces, they turned to the Maui Food Innovation Center at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College, which has a fully equipped food manufacturing and packaging facility, as well as a commercial kitchen, on campus.
Their most recent endeavor draws on Monteverde’s restaurant experience: the creation of a Japanese-Peruvian dining venue called 1111 Nikkei Sushi Bar in Wailea. Peru has South America’s second-largest population of Japanese immigrants, also known as nikkei, and their cuisine blends Peruvian ingredients like corn, quinoa and aji amarillo peppers with Japanese cooking techniques. The first of its kind on Maui, 1111 Nikkei Sushi Bar serves up this unique fare — with ‘Āina Brands’ locally grown peppers featuring prominently on the menu.
‘Āina Brands products have proven financially successful, but Consiglieri and Monteverde have an ulterior motive: to help the community. Consiglieri first visited Maui in 2009 and instantly fell in love with the island and its residents. Since then, he has looked for ways to give back to the place that captured his heart. After the launch of ‘Āina Brands, he was even more determined to make a difference, and started searching for a Maui-based, kid-focused organization to support. He ultimately chose Imua Family Services, a nonprofit that helps support special-needs children and their families. “This cause is very close to my heart,” says Consiglieri. “It is also locally run and managed, and 100 percent of their assistance stays in Maui County.” ‘Āina Brands now donates 10 percent of its profits to Imua.
“We love this community,” Consiglieri says. “People here are so welcoming, so willing to help one another. That’s what motivates us to keep coming up with new ideas and new ways to give back.”
‘Āina Brands sauces are available at theainabrands.com, amazon.com and at the Kumu Farms Country Market at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapū.
1111 Nikkei Sushi Bar, 100 Wailea Ike Drive, Wailea Village Shopping Center | 808.283.2214 | IG/FB @1111nikkeimaui
Listen to a podcast with publisher Diane Woodburn, Sebastian Consiglieri and Martin Monteverde as they discuss all things ‘Āina at mauimagazine.net/podcast-aina-brands.