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humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa

Hawaiian tourists just love this word. We’ve probably all bought, received, given or at least seen something (like a t-shirt) with this word on it. A part of this reef triggerfish’s Hawaiian name relates to today’s topic. The meaning of the long fish’s name is “triggerfish with a snout like a pig.”

Your Hawaiian word for the day is pua’a, or pig. This year in the Chinese zodiac/horoscope is the year of the boar or pig.

Pigs in our coffee land a few years ago.

We are being visited by them again. They come and go all the time. The most we’ve seen is a family of nine a few years ago. Often we don’t see them, we just hear them at night or in the morning, but mostly we just see their path of destruction. They root around and rototill. When I’ve gone to coffee farming workshops inevitably someone goes off topic and asks about how to deal with pigs. There’s no clear answer, though it sounds like electric fences might be the best way.

We tried to trap them. That became a daily experiment of setting out foods we thought would entice the pigs only to find the next day the offering untouched or taken by a smaller animal. We weren’t successful, but it was fun to try for a while. Our cousins were successful one time though! Then there was the problem of what to do once you have a distressed, squealing pig at 1 AM.

One friend who has land close to a pig highway has been practicing his bow and arrow skills. And just after I heard him complain about what a poor aim he was, a few days later he got one! The brazen pigs had access to lots of open space and land, but several chose to keep visiting and digging up the courtyard area by his guesthouse, maybe 10 feet from bedrooms! My friend got another one less than a week later. He had never dealt with a dead pig, but he processed it all based on what he learned from YouTube videos!! Amazing!! He was up until 2am the first time, I think. He’s a modern homesteader, do-it-yourselfer.

There was a time my husband and I would save pineapple tops, let them rest atop water until they grew roots, then we’d plant them in the ground. We don’t really have a lot of loose soil. We’d have to dig around to find some dirt, and hold the pineapple plantings in place with some lava rocks. One day my husband planted around seven. The next day all of them had been dug up by pigs. We even used Uncle Harold’s technique … laid a big, thorny citrus branch cutting over our pineapple to keep the pigs away. But like so many situations in Hawaii, you try to solve one problem, and you create others. If that cutting touched any dirt, it’d often root! When we haven’t stayed on top of it, some of those cuttings became 5-foot tall, thorny, citrus bushes!

More Talk Story About Kona Coffee

Thanks to E.L. for sharing this article in Honolulu Magazine, “Boki’s Beans: A People’s History of Hawaiian Coffee.” I enjoyed the storytelling; some people know how to bring history to life. (My friend, C.T., you’re one of those people). This is quite a yarn — including trans-Atlantic seafaring adventures, European royalty, Hawaiian royalty, colonization, a Spanish expat spreading his seed (fathering at least 23 children & credited with introducing >40 plant species to Hawaii), Valentine Starbuck, etc. Who the heck is Boki? You’ll have to read for yourself.

Make yourself a cup of Bea’s Knees Farm coffee, settle down and enjoy the rich flavor this story lends to your brew.

Coffee and Climate Change

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting research professor Dr. Lini Wollenberg from the University of Vermont. She is involved with a number of different environmental research organizations, including the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), a research center that produces climate and coffee findings. She shared a number of different research papers, which were more academic and detailed than a single small-farm owner can digest and translate into actions. Still, the papers were interesting.

CIAT has a blog, which you can search for coffee-related posts: https://blog.ciat.cgiar.org/?s=coffee I think the posts are pretty interesting & all tie into climate change — governmental policy, fair trade coffee, changing crops altogether (e.g., coffee to chocolate), etc.; these aren’t about coffee/cafe culture — brewing, roasting, equipment, etc.

This article, This is what the future of coffee might taste like, was the most interesting one to me & had to do with the impact of climate change on coffee flavor. It studied Nicaraguan Arabica, in particular, and there were a few dire statements like:

The result is the first glimpse of what the future of arabica might taste like if climate change continues as expected. And unfortunately, it’s miserable news for farmers, buyers and consumers alike: many of Nicaragua’s best coffees are going to taste worse.

Specifically, they found that as suitability falls, acidity will also decrease. Other key characteristics like fragrance, aroma, aftertaste, body and sweetness will take a hit too.

“The cuppers were unanimous that as environmental suitability changes, Nicaragua’s arabica will lose many of its distinctive, delicate flavours,” said Peter Laderach, a CCAFS and CIAT climate change expert, who led the research.

Hmmm. It doesn’t mean this WILL happen, or that it will happen in Hawaii. It doesn’t keep me up at night, but it is something to be aware of and consider. Living on the Big Island you think more of current volcanic change than eventual climate change. These are a few excerpts from a March 27 West Hawaii Today article about the volcano:

“The past nearly eight months without active lava at the surface of the volcano marks the longest time interval without eruption since the 17-month period between November 1979 and April 1982,” HVO said.


The volcano erupted almost continuously since the Puu Oo-Kupaianaha eruption began in 1983. That eruption ended last year when magma migrated down rift and erupted in Leilani, starting the largest lower East Rift Zone eruption in more than 200 years.


Based on past observations, the geologists think the next likely eruption will be in the caldera within a few years. The next rift zone eruption could be in a decade or longer. “This prognosis assumes a return to Kilauea’s general style of behavior for the past 200 years,” HVO said.

There is nothing permanent except change.

Heraclitus

Cold Brew Experiments

One of the winning coffees at the coffee festival last fall had cold brew to taste, and it was surprisingly good. It’s easy to cold brew. I’ve been curious how our coffee would taste cold brewed. But I procrastinated. I like hot coffee, so I wasn’t motivated. Finally, I did it. The plan was to use the same recipe/technique once with the medium roast and once with the medium-dark roast. Mistakes were made, and I ended up with multiple experiments.

I read up a bit about cold brewing. It’s not iced coffee, or regular brewed coffee, chilled. You brew or extract the coffee by letting it sit in cold or room temperature water for many hours, maybe 12-24 hours. It’s less acidic than a fast hot brew and different flavors can be coaxed out.

I started with this link, and explored around other sites for a bit. The recipe I decided on was a 8:1 water to coffee ratio. 16 oz. of water, 2 oz. of medium-coarse grind. I chose to do a hot bloom, like the start of a pour-over. You boil the water, let it calm down & cool a bit, then pour enough over the grounds to wet them and let the carbon dioxide release for about 30 seconds to a minute. I used 1/3 of the water, 5 oz., for the hot bloom, then added the remaining 11 oz. of room temperature water. I gently stirred the coffee, let it come to room temperature, then I put the lid on. I left it for 18 hours. I gently stirred it once during that time. After that, I poured it through our Hario pour over filter. Then I refrigerated the result. Ta da!!

Then the plan was to do the same thing with the medium-dark roast. This is where things went wrong. I ground the coffee, but forgot to change from the finer grind that I use for a pour-over. OK, that became a different experiment, call it #2. I didn’t use the hot bloom. I weighed what I ground and added 8x the amount of water & closed the lid. I ended up filtering #2 after 10 hours because I figured a finer ground would extract faster.

In another jar, #3, I added the medium-coarse grind and did the hot bloom method. Then I realized I was doing this at 9:15AM. 18 hours would be 3:15AM! #3 got filtered after 13 hours. As I was waiting, I decided to save some of the brew & filter it longer, for a total of 24 hours. So #4 brewed longer, and was also more concentrated since it was no longer a 8:1 water to coffee ratio.

Then I thought I should make a normal pour-over (17:1 ratio, or 12 oz: 0.75 oz coffee) and chill it and compare it to the others. So that was #5.

Five different cold brew experiments in jars.
The five different potions.

How do they taste? I’m not a cupper, so I don’t have the fine palate or vocabulary. They do each taste differently. I found the cold brew more fruity and a bit sweeter than the chilled pour-over. I preferred the medium roast cold brew to the other four experiments where I used medium-dark. (I also prefer our medium roast over medium-dark roast in hot coffee.) For #2 and #3 which were the same except for grind size, I found the coarser grind to taste sweeter, with a dark chocolate flavor. Experiment #4, the longest brewed, was the most fruity, but was the most bitter of all five.

I thought it’d be interesting to heat up my favorite cold brew and compare it to a normal pour-over. I’d also be interested in cold brewing a completely different coffee, maybe African. But, I think I’m done with the cold brew experimentation. I realized that for 16 oz of cold brew, I used almost 4x the coffee I use for a 12 oz. pour-over. And I prefer hot coffee.

Are you now curious to try some kind of coffee experiment?

Addendum: I conducted a blind tasting with my husband. He found #1 (medium, 18 hr) to, by far, be the best (mocha, smooth, fruity). His next favorite was the medium-dark, coarse grind, 12 hour (#3). After that, the chilled pour-over (#5). His least favorite was the 24 hr, med-dark (#4) — he mentioned bitterness & it was the only one he didn’t mention fruity. He also wasn’t fond of #2, the med-dark, fine grind, 12 hour, finding it more bitter and less flavorful than the others.

Addendum #2: I did try heating up the medium-roast cold brew to see how it tasted. My husband and I both found it to taste very different than a hot brew. We were more fond of it as a cold brew than as a hot drink. We also diluted it after a few sips. Maybe our taste buds are too accustomed to a certain taste when it’s hot coffee …

Coffee Borer Beetle

Getting from point A to point Z can be daunting unless you remember that you don’t have to get from A to Z. You just have to get from A to B. Breaking big dreams into small steps is the way to move forward.

Sheryl Sandberg

I took the coffee borer beetle (CBB) workshop last year and repeated it earlier this year. Again, I had that feeling of “we’re doomed” that I felt last year. It’s really hard to stay optimistic when you learn about the beetle life cycle, the number of eggs a female lays, and how few days it takes for eggs to become adults. And farmers bemoan that even if they do what they can, their neighbor might not practice good beetle hygiene. The instructor called it “feral coffee,” wild coffee that is no longer actively farmed and cared for. However, the instructors were great at coaching us to keep on doing what we can. They taught us what we should ideally do, which seems impossible, but asked us to do our reasonable best.

Healthy versus beetle-damaged coffee beans shown at various processing stages.

I took this photo when I was at the coffee borer beetle workshop at the CTAHR extension office. The top row shows normal parchment, green bean, and roasted coffee. The second row demonstrates what beetle damage looks like in each stage of the beans.

I think of the New Zealand spirit that I’ve become acquainted with on two visits there. They really care about protecting their fragile environment and seem to face many daunting ecological problems. They educate the public about problems and ask for the public’s help, in the spirit of every person can do a little. They vigorously screen upon entry to the country (asking to see any food, hiking boots, camping equipment, etc.).

On hikes, bulletin boards would explain a problem, and squirt bottles would be available for you to clean off your boots. We saw clear-cut forest, thinking it was horrible until we learned that they’re getting rid of a problematic non-native tree and why. And they showed photos of the seedlings and asked you to remove any you might encounter on your hike.

For example, for Ironman New Zealand, you must have your wetsuit checked. “To protect the awesome water quality of The Great Lake Taupo Region from invasive freshwater threats (such as didymo & hornwort)  the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board and the Department of Conservation require that you Check Clean Dry all your swimming equipment prior to entry into Lake Taupo.”
(Originally from: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events/asiapac/ironman/new-zealand/athletes/pre-race-info.aspx#ixzz5iacPe7dL)

We have to channel that same Kiwi spirit. I’m grateful that in Hawaii grants have been provided to research and educate about, e.g., the beetle. And a financial subsidy is given for spray for the beetle.

If you’re curious and want to learn more, CTAHR created this website for educating Hawaii coffee farmers about CBB & other pests.