It will soon be time for another round of coffee picking. The pickers pull the flexible, tall verticals to reach the cherry that’s out of reach. They should spring back up, but every year some of the verticals remain bent over. Sometimes they’re bent from the weight of all the fruit even before picking, but they aren’t heavily bearing this year. The trees with the tallest verticals are the ones that are next in line to be stumped in February. So we won’t have to look at the branches like this for too much longer.
In this official artwork from the 2016 Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Kona artist Carol Tredway depicts the old-style way of picking. A dead coffee branch with a hook at its end would be used to pull down tall branches in order to pick the coffee. The vertical in the drawing is several feet taller than the picker, but she hooks and pulls the top down down. Note the Kona nightingale looking on.
With the pruning style we now use, it’s not like the old days when there were more verticals, and taller verticals, often requiring a ladder for picking. I’ve seen photos of the trees from the olden days and was impressed with the yield per tree, but of course I can’t find any of that when I’m hunting around on the internet.
In the process, though, I did find an interesting article, one of a former blog series (2012-2016), Maile’s Meanderings, under the Kona Historical Society. It doesn’t show the old growing style (really tall trees with lots of branches) because the trees are newly planted according to the article, “Konawaena High School Road.” In it she also talks about “the only school schedule in the Territory dictated by an agricultural crop. With no classes from mid-August to early November, schoolchildren were available to help their parents pick coffee.” Which ties in nicely to her ending quote, “When coffee’s perking, people are working, kids aren’t shirking, and trouble’s not lurking!”
The article’s image, with a tidy tree farm and buildings that stand out and not a lot of huge, unmaintained greenery, reminds me that UH has requested that I blog about “The Beauty of Kona.” I have to talk to him more about what he means, and I think he might want to write it, really. He has his youthful memories and has seen and lived Kona’s transformation. The change might be more pronounced to him since he lived on the mainland for decades before he retired here. When he returned, it was no longer the Kona of his youth.
He often bemoans the old days when you could clearly see from our road (Mamalahoa Hwy) all the way to the ocean. Now we have so many huge weed, invasive trees like the autograph tree, schefflera, African tulip, etc. obstructing that sightline he remembers. I remember seeing faded black and white photos of my mom, her siblings, cousins, friends, etc. out and about. The terrain was much different, yes. There seemed to be a lot more aged lava rock with some plants versus the verdant, varied, sometimes lush (in south Kona, with more rain) plant scape we now see. There has been a plethora of plants brought here, legally and illegally, knowingly and not, and spread by birds, animals, and man.
On another note, a friend shared this video, “The Ultimate V60 Technique” for making a pour over, because this coffee nerd apparently reminded him of us. I learned a few tips I want to try. Our friend said he was trying a few of the techniques, but then it came out that he doesn’t freshly grind his coffee. In my opinion, he’d get more payoff for his efforts by freshly grinding rather than perfecting his pour over technique. He says he buys a pound of coffee and has them grind it. If you don’t have a good burr grinder, using a professional’s grinder IS one of those times when pre-ground might be better than grinding your own right before brewing (e.g., if you use a blade chopper grinder). It’s also important how and how long you store ground coffee.
I told him to try an experiment of holding back some whole beans and compare that same coffee (a) freshly ground with (b) the pre-ground that’s nearing its lifetime at his drinking rate. I recommended he get an inexpensive hand burr grinder, which is fine for a cup or two of coffee, not for a family of six who all drink coffee at the same time. Or you can borrow someone’s burr grinder to run your experiment. Is it worth it to *you*? If you taste and appreciate the difference, you might want to invest in an electric burr grinder. And if you have purchased a hand grinder, it can become your travel grinder. I had just recently read a rerun article from Perfect Daily Grind about exactly this topic so I’ll share with you all: “Is Pre-Ground Coffee Ever Better Than Freshly Ground?”