Short trip to the big city

Hubby and I made a short trip to the big city of Honolulu last week. We’ve just determined that we haven’t been to Waikiki together since 1999, before we even had a digital camera or cell phones. We’ve been at the airport together since then, but we hadn’t spent days on O’ahu together. Wow.

In the recent 2020 census, Hawai’i island had a population of a little over 200,000. O’ahu had a little over one million. Waikiki is a completely different world from Kona. Inevitably people from the Big Island have to go to Honolulu for some sort of medical care or appointment. That was our situation, so we built a little getaway around it.

While there we made a stop at Kona Coffee Purveyors. When I googled it, search hits were also bringing up that the owners had recently listed their house for $14.8M. I don’t think it’s possible to make that fortune from a cafe. More likely, if you have that money, you can indulge in a passion project cafe. Anyway, I wasn’t so much interested in the cafe because of real estate or the coffee. I am grateful for them carrying good Kona coffee and preparing and serving it in a manner that properly shows it off. They have a great retail section with all sorts of coffee nerd paraphernalia. The draw for me, though, were the (San Francisco-based) b.patisserie pastries they carry.

There seemed to always be a line, which we were reluctant to join. On our last morning we were undecided whether we’d walk a mile to a place we had in mind for breakfast or go to Kona Coffee Purveyors. It was raining pretty hard that morning, and Kona Coffee Purveyors was close to our hotel, so that decided it. We ended up waiting thirty minutes for our pastries and coffee, but we stayed dry. We had to get two pastries each since we had swum AND waited in a line.

I ordered an Aeropress of Konawaena coffee since Bea is an alma mater from that school and my cousins teach there. We noted that the barista used the inverted Aeropress method, hubby’s preferred style when he uses that device. I had forgotten that this was the cafe where the 2019 US Aeropress champion Towa Ikawa worked. (She wasn’t there or my barista that day).

The coffee sure beat the coffee we had at the hotel restaurant the day prior. Good coffee, bad coffee … it’s coffee, and it serves its purpose. I thought this article about cultural omnivores described it well.

The next day back on the home front, it was a rare day where it was very grey and rainy, already in the morning. In fact, we ended up getting 1.5 inches that day (not even evening/night), and this is supposedly our dry season. Some areas even lost power (under an hour) and phone service, though I’m not sure it was related to the rain. We’ve gotten about eight inches of rain this month; last October we got half an inch.

Lastly, Bea sent some photos from her Southern California suburban garden. (She’s much more likely to send flower and plant photos than fur baby photos). It’s fall and it’s time for making hoshigaki, dried persimmons. This is definitely a slow food item. Hanging the fruit is the traditional, time-consuming, more delicious method, and involves massaging each fruit once or twice daily after a certain point. I never had much luck with the hanging method, plus we have a cat. There are two problems with a cat — she’d either play with them, or her fur would somehow manage to blow onto the fruit and get stuck on them. I’ve included a photo of my dehydrated persimmons (also hand massaged) to show how much they shrink.

Bea’s Buddha’s hand citron tree was very prolific this year. She even found a long-fingered fruit that’s throwing a shaka!

Mauna Loa Rumbling; Some coffee recipes

A little over a week ago there was a 5.0 magnitude earthquake which had the coconut wireless (the “grapevine”) abuzz. I even got a text from a friend on the mainland asking about Pele. That’s when I realized it made mainland news. It was one of the larger events since the “heightened unrest” began in mid-September.

The USGS Volcano Watch 10/23/22 update for Mauna Loa said, “Heightened unrest began in mid-September 2022 with increased earthquake rates below Mauna Loa summit (from 10–20 per day to 40–50 per day), an increased rate of inflation recorded by GPS stations, and inflation recorded on the MOK tiltmeter.”

On October 5 Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed the Mauna Loa summit backcountry until further notice, calling it a “precautionary measure” amid “elevated seismic activity.”

The volcano at about 13,680 feet above sea level, last erupted in 1984. Since 1843, it has erupted 33 times, with the time between eruptions ranging from months to decades, according to the observatory.

The park’s online portal says this is the volcano’s “longest quiet period since written records have been kept.”

There was a presentation yesterday at Ocean View, almost 40 miles south of here, about the likelihood of Mauna Loa erupting. West Hawaii Today reported today (10/23/22) in “Mauna Loa meeting draws concerns.” It’s a long excerpt, but I find it so interesting.

HVO geologist Frank Trusdell compared the current seismic activity with records of previous Mauna Loa eruptions in 1975 and 1984. While he noted that those eruptions — the latter of which spewed lava almost all the way to Hilo — were preceded by heightened seismic activity and terrain deformation similar to what HVO has recently detected, he added that HVO has not detected “consistent and persistent” seismicity and deformation.

Hon said that, if that consistent and persistent activity is detected, then HVO will raise its advisory level to “Orange” or “Watch,” which he said would indicate that HVO is reasonably confident that an eruption will occur.

But, even if it becomes clear that an eruption is imminent, Hon said it will be impossible to predict where the lava will flow “until Pele shows us where it will go.” He said that Mauna Loa makes up roughly 50% of the island, and lava can flow in practically any direction from the mountain and threaten any part of the island.

Trusdell said that all 33 recorded Mauna Loa eruptions since 1832 have originated at the volcano’s summit, but 24% flowed into the volcano’s Northeast Rift Zone, toward Hilo, and another 21% flowed the opposite direction, into the Southwest Rift Zone.

This latter path — toward Ocean View — is the most dangerous, as lava flows in Mauna Loa’s Southwest Rift Zone have been recorded to reach the sea in as little as three hours, Trusdell said.

We just don’t know. I share this info, not because I’m anxious, but because it’s interesting. The USGS Lava-Flow Hazard Zone map shows that on the slopes of Hualālai we are in Zone 4.

Enough doom and gloom. On to lighter topics. Life’s short. If you always drink your coffee straight up, black, maybe try one of these international recipes to break out of your usual.

A Hong Kong-based recipe, called Yuanyuang, which has black tea, sweetened condensed milk, and strong coffee. I haven’t tried it, but I bet it’s good with some boba (tapioca pearls).

Tea and coffee reminds me of a chai latte. I’ve had one at a cafe, and it was good, but I still prefer EITHER a chai OR a (coffee) latte.

Another recipe from Homegrounds was the Mazagran, an iced lemon coffee. I haven’t tried this yet, but our neighbor has given me a lot of lemons, telling me to juice and freeze them. I did, but we don’t have a chest freezer; we only have so much room! In any case, we have lemons. To me, citrus and coffee sound like a recipe for heartburn. Maybe I’ll make a little one to at least try it. I noticed a tip that you can also add rum. 🙂

And a Mexican coffee cocktail, the Carajillo, if the impending doom gets to be too much.

Brunch — Do you love it or hate it?

Over a week ago there was an amusing story I heard on the radio. At the time listeners were chiming in about how they felt about brunch. I found the story online (you can read or listen), “Eggs benedict and mimosas, anyone? We Settle the Brunch Debate Once and For All.”

I think I tuned in right before Ellen Reich of Baltimore’s snippet, which made me laugh. She kind of hits all the points. I don’t agree with her, but I can relate to where she’s coming from.

“I abhor eggs. No eggs is the only phrase I can say in multiple languages,” she says. “Brunch food is just throwing a sauce or whipped cream on food items that aren’t all that exciting to begin with. Hard pass for me regarding drinks. If you want a drink in the morning, drink in the morning. No need to dress liquor up with fruit or vegetable juices to make it acceptable.”

I think it’s more common for Americans to meet in the morning over a coffee or tea than an alcoholic beverage. I guess that’s where those brunch mimosas, champagne, and Bloody Marys come into play, easing alcohol into morning social acceptance.

The Germans have their “Frühschoppen, a morning get-together, when friends meet over a Schoppen. Depending on the region, this may be a glass of wine or a beer and schnapps.  The custom of enjoying a Frühschoppen on Sundays between church and the midday meal is still popular, particularly in rural areas.” [from]. Stammtisch is the regulars’ table, which might be signified with a little flag or banner in the middle of the table. I lived in Germany for a few years. I’d occasionally see these Sunday get-togethers, usually of older men, though I was never a part of any regular meeting group.

In Germany in the early 90’s I didn’t perceive brunch to be as common as it was in the U.S. Some restaurants offered it, but only the cool, trendy ones, and it seemed to have a similar characteristic to American brunch; it might have even been called “American brunch.”

German breakfast already felt like something special to me. There’d be a basket full of an assortment of fresh rolls from the bakery (someone had run out to get that morning), a huge spread of cold cuts and cheeses, butter, honey, and a big selection of jams, and maybe some soft-boiled eggs. Juice, coffee and tea. If you’re at someone’s house, all this stuff comes out of the fridge and is nicely spread out. It’s a breakfast event.

I first heard the expression and learned the concept of “second breakfast” in Norway from my sister-in-law’s husband. I woke up later than him, and I saw him already eating a piece of bread with something on it, not what he had announced was for breakfast that morning. When I asked if he had already eaten breakfast, he said, “This is my first breakfast. Second breakfast is later.” Something to that effect. I think you take the edge off with first breakfast, so that second breakfast can be a nice, leisurely, more substantial meal with company.

We are in the coffee business. Breakfast and brunch are the coffee meals. Unless you are capable of enjoying an espresso or coffee after dinner, like many Europeans. I enjoy eating out for both breakfast and brunch. And it has been more fun to entertain and have friends/family over for breakfast or brunch than dinner. There are just different expectations to those meals. You might spend the entire day preparing and cooking dinner, which means the host might already be tired. That’s not likely to be the case for breakfast. If you prepare anything that far in advance, it’s the day before or even earlier, and the day-of you’re reheating or doing the final bake.

I had been in a book club for 26(!!) years. We used to alternate hosting weekday dinner (whether take out or home cooked) and had moved to weekend brunch in my last years. People were more alert, and the meal could be simple or more elaborate. And we had daylight for the whole meeting and still had the rest of the day after book club.

Call it what you will … first breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, and lunch are all possibilities with me. Eating those might start at 6am and be as late as 3:30pm. And then there’s a dinner, or maybe a lunner (lunch + dinner). Hee hee.

Do you have strong opinions about brunch?

Mana, Ironman World Championship 2022, and Leis

In Hawaiian mythology mana is a spiritual energy and healing power which can exist in places, objects and persons. Hawaiians believe that mana may be gained or lost by actions, and that mana is both external and internal. (Edited from Wikipedia)

Indulge me today for more of a personal, cultural, local flavor piece, which only very loosely relates to coffee. Maybe these types of posts are more interesting to you than coffee nerd posts anyway.

A few weeks ago Reiko asked me to join her on November 12 at the Ho’olaule’a for the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, a 10-day affair first held in 1970. She’s going to be teaching how to make ti leaf leis, and she wants me to help since I speak English. I said, “But I don’t know how to make ti leaf leis.” She said I can learn.

With the Ironman World Championship finally returning after its COVID-19 hiatus, I thought this would be a good time to learn. I could make some ti leaf leis for some friend finishers. It is a different event this year. It was huge, with over double the number of athletes as previous years and two days of racing. I’ve heard a lot of (justified) grumbling.

For example, the guy who cuts hubby’s hair, located in town, had to shut down both race days, as well as many other businesses impacted by road closures, some of them as long as 6:30am-1:30am (19 hours). And two large parking lots that had always been public and free, became paid parking lots, shortly before the race. $15/hour! This really rankled. Even the business owners that are there don’t get to park there. Luckily, race week corresponds with the public schools’ fall break.

I won’t get into all the arguments for and against holding Ironman here. I get the sense there’s a strong local sentiment that the championships have outgrown their venue, and the community is exhausted hosting. Someone else host the party now.

This race depends on volunteers. And many of the volunteers are found in local clubs and groups. Your organization supplies the volunteers for some task, you all bond by working together, then later Ironman donates some amount to the organization. For example, my cousins in the Lions Club manned the Special Needs bag distribution on the run course. Hubby and I (not as part of any organization) did various volunteer jobs before the races and on the first race day.

I met a couple from Luxembourg (the lady hails from Japan) who are not athletes. Many years ago after marrying on another Hawaiian island, they made their first trip to the Big Island on what happened to be race week. Someone asked them to volunteer, and they asked if it was OK if they weren’t racing (yes!!). They loved the experience so much, for years they have been flying here (this year for two weeks) every year to volunteer. Wow.

Reiko, hubby, and I volunteered as Finish Line catchers. A volunteer gives each finisher a kukui nut lei, and two other volunteers give an athlete a towel and guide them back to the post-race area. At first it was a little slow since it was mostly only pros finishing at the start of our 4-hour shift. Reiko spotted legendary Aunty Mele at the finish line area, wearing a green volunteer shirt (a higher status volunteer). She was there already by 4:00 or so for her main job of singing Hawai’i Aloha at 12:30am! I saw a photo of her at the finish line singing with retiring Ironman announcer Mike Reilly. What endurance! I read in the Ke Ola article I linked to that she was an Ironman volunteer coordinator for 32 years. Reiko sang and danced for Aunty Mele before our work finally began.

After Race Day 1, I wanted to get started on the leis I intended to give some athletes before their banquet on Sunday. There’s a strong culture of giving and appreciation here. I often find it a delightful surprise when I’m bestowed with a lei. And although ti leaves are found all over here, they can be transformed into a gift. I like the idea of dedicating your efforts to someone else. You think of that person and why you’re making the lei. Ti leis have mana.

You do have to first prepare the ti leaves so that they’re pliable and twistable. I won’t give instructions here. There are many ways to make these leis. I like learning in-person. Reiko demonstrated and described, but encouraged me to just try things so I could learn and make my own mistakes, e.g., what happens if you use a too-young leaf. Mistakes were made, some lessons learned. I was initially planning to make the leis a few days beforehand and store them in the fridge. Reiko felt very strongly that leis need to be made on the day of gifting. It’s not uncommon that she gets up before the sun’s out to harvest leaves and make a lei to give in the morning.

So instead of making more ti leis, the day after learning about ti leaf leis, I made some bougainvillea leis (that I already knew how to do). It was a pleasure to give four bougainvillea and three ti leis (some were Reiko’s demonstration ones) to seven local first-time Ironman finishers at a community event at the pool the day after the second race. Their surprise and delight was a gift to me.

This year was a particularly special race for Rune and me. Two Norwegians, in their debut Kona races, and only the second Ironman-distance race for both of them, got first (and a new course record) and third.

Back in 2012 Rune wanted to race on Team Norway for the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Championship race in Auckland, New Zealand. Winter sports are Norway’s thing, not triathlon. The Norwegian Triathlon Federation was just beginning to focus on cultivating triathletes, particularly their junior athletes. They wouldn’t financially support the “age group” triathletes like Rune, but with some minor requirements, they let Rune be on the team. Team Norway was three juniors and two age groupers that year. Rune also raced on Team Norway in London in 2013, a larger team since more Norwegians wanted to participate. Then he switched to Team USA for Edmonton, Canada in 2014.

It has been great fun to watch the fruits of the Federation’s labor. Blummenfelt won gold at the Olympics last year and won the 2021 Ironman World Championships held at St. George, Utah (because of COVID-19 and Hawaii’s situation). And now Gustav Iden won Ironman Kona and is seeking his Olympic gold. It’s a lot of fun to look back at this old photo and see these now very famous athletes in their younger days. Heia Norge!

Harvest and coffee processing

The pickers were here today. They worked a full day, but there weren’t many bags at the end. They go through the effort of checking all the trees, but there just isn’t a lot of red cherry to pick. There was more than the last picking, but not much. I suspect the berries are lighter and there are more floater fruit, whose seeds (coffee seeds are what we eventually roast) don’t even continue along the processing steps.

Whether there’s a lot or a little, we still have to process the coffee fruit. People suggest we sell avocados or bananas or some other crop. The problem with those crops is that they’re perishable. You need to have buyers or the ability to further process it. For example, you could process avocados into a higher priced product like guacamole, but that can’t keep for a year or more without refrigeration like green coffee can.

As a reminder, our website describes (1) wet milling and (2) dry milling. Recently there was an article in Perfect Daily Grind about micro milling, small-scale milling for one grower or a little co-op of growers. The wet mill we use is a bit larger than what’s depicted, but we also employ a little repass pulper that’s the size of what’s described in the article. The owner of the wet mill processes for a few small farms. And luckily, he’s able to service and repair the mill.

Here’s a little repeat from last year’s writeup: We use an Estrada wet mill from Colombia to wet mill the coffee the same day it’s picked. Water and machinery free the seeds from the skins and fruit. The seeds (coffee) sit in a fermentation tank overnight, then the next morning they’re raked out to dry on a covered deck before being mechanically finish-dried later that day or the next day. The end result is parchment. The parchment is put in burlap bags and the scant moisture is allowed to even out for weeks/months before it eventually gets dry milled into green (unroasted) beans.

The photo gallery is from last year. The storyline is the same, except the truck bed full of burlap coffee bags doesn’t apply this year. There are only a few bags.

The University extension, CTAHR, recently wrote:

“Communication with growers indicate a higher (than normal) amount of floater (under-developed bean/seed) parchment in the recent harvest(s). This is likely due to the dry weather we received this winter/early spring when young berries were developing.”

I’ve shared this link before, but I think it’s good to refer to it when the topic of processing comes up: coffee processing styles and terminology. According to the terminology used in the article, our coffee is triple washed since we float the cherry prior to pulping and also soak (short ferment) after pulping.