Christmas can be nice, though for many people it’s a tough time… a time when we notice with acute awareness an empty place at the table, when the days seem darkest, and for some the purse strings are stretched to their limit.
New Years is different. It’s a time for hope. Spring lurks over the horizon, and you can see a stretch in the evening. Who doesn’t love that opportunity to start afresh? The dawning of a new year…
That’s why I like mornings in general. A new day and a mini start over. Perhaps that is why I’m a morning person, or maybe it’s just that I love, love, love coffee! So when we were in Hawaii (yes, I’m still banging on about this place!) we went on a coffee tasting tour, a couple of them in fact.
Our first stop was the Hilo Coffee Mills in Mountain View, Hawaii. I’d heard of Kona Coffee but not Hilo Coffee, and I was curious. Hilo Coffee Mills is an all women run business. They were great hosts and gave us a private tour, free and extremely educational. The coffee was delicious too.
We saw coffee trees growing in the grounds and some had cherries.
I learned that coffee plants needs well drained soil, though it didn’t seem overly fussy about it’s sun conditions since it seemed to do well either in full sun or as an understory plant with lots of filtered sunlight. Now I know why my coffee tree died a few years back – over-watering.
We also visited a coffee plantation on the West side of the Island, the Kona side of the Island, called Mountain Thunder. It’s near the airport and a good quick side trip between checking out of your hotel and checking in for your flight home (sob!) They give out free samples of delicious coffee and are an organic farm.
On this side of the Island some of the coffee trees were still blossoming.
Both tours concurred on all the facts about growing coffee in Hawaii.
Keeping weeds at bay is a major problem. With the heat and copious amounts of water the weeds grew like…, em, weeds! At Mountain Thunder they employed an organic team of weeders to deal with the newly germinated sprouts each day.
Noisy but effective and an added bonus is the fertilizer they apply free of charge!
Another problem is that the coffee cherries ripen at different times, so for maximum production and quality, the ripe berries need to be hand picked, leaving behind the less ripe cherries to ripen later.
The first in a long line of labor intensive chores.
The coffee cherries are quite tasty, a cross between a grape and a cherry. However, it is the seed which is the cash crop. The pulp of the cherries is removed and the residual mucilage is fermented and then washed of the remaining beans. Our tour guide shows us the cherries and the beans below.
Once dried the beans should be a nice green color. In the picture below the beans on the right are premium quality. Notice that the beans on the left do not have the same uniform color.
At this point the beans are roasted in small batches.
Now I can understand why coffee is so expensive!
Interestingly, the Hawaiin coffees have a very light roast. This is because the high qualty of the beans allows for this. The longer and darker you roast coffee the less you taste coffee and the more you taste the roast. Most coffee houses start with an inferior bean and roast their coffee dark to mask the bad beans.
As you roast the bean you “burn” the coffee off. Lighter roasts of coffee have more caffeine in them. So even though an Italian or French roast seems to pack a bigger coffee punch, in fact it has less caffeine than a milder lighter roast that actually tastes of coffee.
Another thing that I learned was that many coffees are marketed as a Kona blend, but that just means that the coffee must have at least 10% Kona coffee beans…i.e. one in every ten beans is a Kona bean.
So my New Years resolution is to find a local supplier of 100% Kona coffee!
Happy New Year!