We have coffee! And, the end of the festival…

I have wonderful news … our shop is again open! We have coffee to roast and sell. And the pickers are here today, getting the last third or fourth of our harvest, to be dry milled in 2024. In the next days we’ll have a good idea of our season’s harvest. It has been dark and drizzling before noon today, but the sun is coming out again.

Ten days of coffee festival activities are now over. There are so many things going on, we don’t go to all of them. Last year I decided to try one event new for me each year so I can get a feel for what it’s about. This year my new event was Kona’s Got Talent Showcase, which is held mauka (upland), not in Kailua. We almost didn’t go; inertia is so hard to overcome. We got over the hump by saying we’d go for at least an hour (this is often a trick I’ve used to get started on consulting projects for the day).

We saw more than these performers, but the Little Miss Kona Coffee participants (ages 7-12) were the cutest, so I snapped photos mostly of them. The winner demonstrated archery. We could use her help with our pigs. I apologize for the blurry photos.

At the Talent Showcase I learned that it was the late Fusao Sugai that insisted this event be held mauka. He and his family were honored at the event. The Sugai family is our direct neighbor.

For nearly thirty years, Sugai Kona Coffee farm owner Fusao Sugai supported the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival. With his passing earlier this summer, Kona lost a Kona coffee pioneer. Fusao’s community involvement was vast and the Festival honors his commitment to the community and Kona coffee.

Kona Coffee Cultural Festival 2023 Program

Saturday was the Ho’olaule’a at the Old Airport. It was great fun again this year. Great performances going on the whole time (9am-3pm), and a constant stream of locals and visitors milling about. Like last year, I helped Reiko teach how to make ti-leaf leis. We were only two (vs. three) this year, and we were constantly busy. There are always a few who are really delighted and so appreciative of learning how to do this … they make it all worthwhile. “I’m SO happy!! I’m SO happy!! Thank you SO MUCH!” I met a couple from O’ahu who stumbled upon the festival event along with their mainland friends/visitors. They said they had bought ti leaf leis to greet them, not knowing they’d have this opportunity to make them.

We were so busy teaching, neither Reiko nor I saw the displayed leis entered in the contest, which are these beautiful, ephemeral pieces of art. There’s a silent auction for them, so they had all gone to their new owners by mid-day. The photo for this post was a lei entry from 2022.

At the end, one of Reiko’s Japanese friends came by, who has been dancing hula for many years. She very quickly demonstrated one way to make the kupe’e lei, the greenery worn around the forehead, wrists, ankles, or as a hair ornament. It seemed straightforward until I tried to do it myself. What a disaster. She said she used to perform every Monday, and she’d have to make 20 kupe’e for that performance. And when there were competitions, others in her hālau weren’t as good at making them, so they’d cajole, “Auntiiieeee, can you make my kupe’e?” In other words, she’s had lots of practice over the years. She told me of many locations where she planted ti canes, including her condo complex, stealth at night. She needed a good supply of leaves. She told me that when she first moved to Hawai’i, she was fascinated by kupe’e and wanted to make them. She couldn’t speak English, and she’d just stare at it, and a dancer gave her her kupe’e, and she took it apart and tried to reverse engineer how to make it. Well, I have her example, and she told me, “YouTube!”

UH-CTAHR Extension had a booth right next to ours. Our Master Gardener classes were held at their extension office in Kainaliu. [By the way, if you’re local and reading this, you can apply for the 2024 Master Gardener class.] What was most interesting to me this time was the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles (CRB), and the huge larvae, they had to show. Ewww. The newest scourge to reach this island, just a month ago: “On October 11th, a Waikoloa Village resident found five large CRB grubs, or larvae, in a decaying palm tree stump on the property.” They significantly damage coconut palms, destroying their look, and can kill the tree. It is always something.

The last event was yesterday, the Kona Coffee Recipe Contest with tastings, and the Big Island Showcase and Kona Coffee Expo. More performances, gratitude expressed, and the recipe and the coffee cupping contest winners were announced. Following are just a few visuals. I didn’t take a photo of the big ballroom with all the tables and all the recipe and coffee contest samples. I was too busy getting my samples.

The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is underway!

As of Friday, the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is on! We were there as spectators at the first four events: (1) Made in Hawai’i Artisan Market, (2) Lantern Parade, (3) Multicultural Showcase, and (4) the Holualoa Coffee and Art Stroll. For many (most?) of the events, you only need the $5 festival button to get in. We already had ours and forgot to bring them to the first three events, all in Kailua. At a token cost of $5, you just buy them again.

Don’t dawdle over dinner too long or you’ll miss the Lantern Parade! Daifukuji’s youth taiko group was by far the most exciting group. Nothing like the drums stirring up energy and reverberating through your body. [FYI, they are holding a silent online auction to raise money for the youth to go to Japan next year.] We were watching by the end of the parade route, where each group would pause before they got officially announced.

I don’t exactly understand who gets to walk in the parade. This is the Entry Form. There was one couple that walked in it. Their announcement had almost gotten skipped, because they were just these two people (visiting tourists?) walking in the dark with their two lanterns, as opposed to a larger community group. I didn’t see the Kealakehe High School Polynesian Club this year, in the parade or the subsequent Multicultural Showcase. They are such a large club, and their presence and performances are powerful, commanding, and impressive.

I really enjoyed the Multicultural Showcase. I think it’s attended by more locals than visitors, yet it’s appealing to all. But somehow my cousins who were at the parade didn’t know about it and all missed it. It’s not a lūʻau or show put on just for tourists. I like that there can be hula groups of Merrie Monarch caliber, and they’re dancing in jeans and t-shirts. Or musicians play a song that several dancers love, and they just jump up and dance, and you can see the different choreography.

I was most excited by Kamaha’o Haumea-Thronas, a 14 year old boy. He was singing and playing ukulele on stage with two adult men accompanying him on instruments when we walked in. This is him in a photo that Reiko took. WOW!! What talent! I am an instant fan. His Hawaiian style falsetto was right on. This song, Ali’i No ‘Oe, was one of the songs he sang, and it was even better than the video from a year ago. He had fun, natural stage presence. I found this on YouTube, his performance for the 2023 Kamehameha Schools Song Contest.

The Kona Hongwanji taiko group played bon dance songs, and kūpuna (seniors), youngsters, teens, Miss Kona Coffee competitors, and people of all ethnicities and mixes jumped in and out of the dancing circle depending on the song. She-can-do-it-all, multi-talented Reiko was there, someone to follow/mimic. She can be found at many bon dances around the island during the bon dance season. [In just the few days prior I’ve seen her swimming, playing the Japanese nose flute, dancing hula bringing me to cathartic tears, and she had made Japanese food, flower arrangements, and a variety of leis.] It was fun to see Kamaha’o jump in, like any other kid in the audience might. There was the traditional coal miner’s song (my friend was going through the motions sitting down, remembering it from her childhood) and then modern dances choreographed to, e.g., Bruno Mars (who hails from Hawai’i). This is living culture!

Changing gears, getting ready to wind this post up, I’ll throw in a few images from the farm. Our very first rollinia. We’ll have to look up or ask around about when to harvest it.

And a photo in the spirit of keeping it real. Not all is perfect. This autograph tree has taken over a dead coffee stump. You might think, “That’s a nice tree.” It’s not. We are always battling autograph trees. At least they are much smaller on our property now, since we continually whack away at them. It’s like whack-a-mole — they’re always sprouting and re-sprouting up somewhere.

I’ll leave you with a fun-with-cousins photo from Saturday’s sunset, taken at Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau. Do you see what we’re spelling? [It’s NOT ALMA, you smart aleck!]

Lei, the symbol of the spirit of aloha

In the summer my lifelong friend came to Hawai’i, as she and her family have for as long as I’ve known them. Her mom was Bea’s Konawaena classmate, and they coincidentally both ended up raising families in Southern California less than a mile apart. There were quite a few Hawai’i transplants in the area.

My friend’s daughter’s birthday took place while they were here and several of us were meeting for Hawaiian music and dinner. I used the occasion to try and make my first maile-style ti lei. I used a dried one I had received for my birthday to try and reverse engineer how it was made. Not perfect, but I learned something, and the overall effect was good enough. The lei didn’t have to be as long as an adult’s either. It was really a symbol of my effort in making it, and thinking of her as I made it.

She was delighted to receive it. Her mom took a photo of us, and moments later it was gone. It was tucked away in her large purse. The leaves made her itch. I forgot she has sensitive skin.

Her grandma was Bea’s classmate, in the era when the school year was skewed for the coffee season, so the kids could help pick coffee. When the family now comes to Hawai’i, they always spend some time at the “mauka house,” the family coffee farm in Holualoa proper. [Our mailing address city is Holualoa, but we’re actually in Honalo, a Census Designated Place].

Apparently, last summer L picked red coffee cherry while they were on island. And the grandparents explained to her how to process coffee fruit. [You can pull down to Wet Milling and Dry Milling from this website’s About tab to see what we do.] So she took off the fruit to get the seeds/beans. Soaked it. Took it back to California. And over some period of time, sometimes forgetting it, she dried it, had parchment, dried it, removed the parchment, husk, and silver skin and had green coffee. And then grandpa pan-roasted the coffee at Thanksgiving, I believe. The adults were all pleasantly surprised at how good that coffee was. They all told me about it this summer. So they were hoping to do it again this year. I heard Grandpa was even motivated to do the same after he experienced L’s success.

One night after dinner at their rental condo, I saw little bowls of coffee in process. They had picked fruit that day, and she had removed the seeds and was soaking them. I got snippets of what she had done, but there were always a lot of people around and many distractions. I’ve asked her to describe to me in detail what she did last year. I’m hoping she’ll write a guest blog post someday. It’s how great recipes sometimes get invented — you follow the general principle, but you don’t strictly follow a recipe. Or maybe you try to follow a recipe, but mistakes are made. Sometimes the end result is something enjoyable, maybe surprising, and something new has been discovered.

Friends were moving off island earlier this month. Rather than have a sad goodbye party, they had an engagement party. So it was another occasion calling for leis. I decided it was an opportunity for more practice with the maile-style ti lei.

By the way, you can get maile leis at Safeway here. We were going to the 1-day’s notice Norwegian wedding and looked at the leis available. We finally settled on two maile leis, which we thought each was $59.99, or something like that. Expensive, but I knew maile leis were expensive. When it rang up, each lei was $159.99, and I quickly intervened and questioned that. We looked very closely at the pricetag on the clamshell enclosing the lei. Somehow both Hubby and I had not noticed that first digit!! So we had to return those. Apologies to the people in line behind us. Luckily the wedding package included leis for the wedding couple, like we figured. They were common orchid leis you can pretty easily find here. I’m curious who buys such expensive maile leis from Safeway. “Honey, can you get some milk from Safeway? Oh, and pick up a maile lei, too.”

Back to the engagement party … I was surprised that there weren’t many leis given. It wasn’t like high school or college graduation where the graduate is just buried in leis, which seems wacky and a bit of a shame, really. You can have an incredibly special, delicate, time-consuming-to-make lei buried under a string of candy or seed or joke leis. Do an Internet search on “Hawaiian graduation leis” and you’ll quickly get the visual idea.

In the photo below the couple are both wearing the leis I made, but the guy has a second ti lei that was made braided vs. twisted. You probably can’t quite see it, and it’s not important; I just noticed how they differed. Another guest brought a very special lei, the Ola’a Beauty, which he had his special-lei lady make. I had never seen such a lei. It’s a dense collection of violet pansies that were originally found growing wild in Ola’a, near Hilo. WOW!! So delicate and perishable and SO MANY flowers! [The photos below are low resolution and were taken by their professional photographer, which I cropped for privacy].

Since I’ve gotten on the lei subject, I’ll close with a few other photos. We had a family party and Aunty made purple and white crown flower leis. Cousin made a ti lei in a style I hadn’t seen before. Impactful, big and bold. It didn’t require first heating/softening the ti leaves.

Bishop Shugen Komagata of the Soto Mission of Hawaii, wearing a plumeria lei, flew over from Honolulu for a special ceremony at Daifukuji the other weekend. He was the 8th minister of Daifukuji; the current minister, Jiko, is the 12th. Here he’s talking story with UH, who refers to himself as a nonagenarian. Bishop Komagata, whom we think is a septuagenarian, said he used to have coffee with my great uncle who used to live at the property neighboring ours.

Lastly, Reiko’s birthday morning. This is the lady who will get up at 4am to freshly harvest leaves or flowers, with a flashlight, to make a fresh lei to be given in the morning. Most people (hello!) would make the lei the day before and refrigerate it. Worse, I gave her a crochet lei, recycled. Ha ha! It is so antithetical to Reiko. I didn’t have the skills or floral materials to make a lei worthy of my teacher. I told her it can be the under-support for the fresh leis. [I did make her a few other things, just not a lei.]

One friend had gotten up early that morning to pick pink plumeria for her lei (made at least before 7:45am). Another friend gave her a delicate bundle of ti hair string leis and also the white Tahitian gardenia lei. Our Tahitian gardenia has maybe five blossoms, if that. Half the flowers were from the gifter’s plants, and the other half were from some plants near Old Airport.

Leis are so special. So many beautiful plant materials can be used to create an impermanent work of art. You have to work with what’s available and in season. The Hawaiian friend who made the ti and the gardenia leis was generous about my slight self-consciousness about the recycled crochet lei. She said they have unique history and take on stories from each regifting.

Another old structure bites the dust

Several weeks ago a college friend of my dad’s shared this article about the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, saying that some of the photos reminded him of photos I’ve posted about our farm. The history related in that article is the general setting of my great-grandparents’ and grandparents’ lives in Hawai’i. And it reminded me about their kuriba, the mill.

One day we drove down the road a few months ago and noticed the old Murata kuriba was finally smashed down. I don’t know why. I also don’t know why it wasn’t done decades ago. I wrote a little about the kuriba in “The Old Days on the Murata farm” and “More on the Old Days.” When I see these two photos, taken about four years apart, what strikes me is how much more lush the recent photo is. The 2019 photo was taken in January, the dry season.

Normally we’re always driving by, and there’s no good place to pull over so I could take a photo. The recent photo (above, on the right) was taken a few days ago, when we walked along our road to attend the bon dance at Daifukuji temple. It was the first bon dance at Daifukuji since the pandemic, and the first one in the afternoon, not evening/night. (This is just a random photo of mine and not necessarily a good, representative one. See Reiko’s blog for more coverage, but she was busy dancing so probably didn’t take as many photos as she’d have liked. If you use Google Chrome, it’ll offer to translate the Japanese.) I loved seeing people all over the temple grounds. Youngsters, oldsters, locals, visitors, people dressed in kimono, yukata, happi coats, etc. Dancing, sitting on benches, on the ground, observing from higher up at the temple entrance. My friend and I took a wild guess, “300 attendees?” A true community event.

The temple is just 0.6 miles away, but it’s a curvy road, mostly with no shoulder. It’s pretty dangerous to walk just half a mile. Usually when we walk on any road, we walk facing traffic. With this road, we cross the road several times depending on the shoulder or lack thereof, and keeping in mind how visible we’d be to drivers. We have a section of guardrail on the road curve bordering our farm. It is not infrequent, every so many months, that accidents still happen where a vehicle meets that guardrail or the rock wall on the opposite side of the road.

It’s almost 3.5 miles to Konawaena school. One year in her school age years, Mom had to walk home from school each day; it took an hour. Back then the road didn’t have anything close to the vehicle traffic it now has. You hardly ever see children walking to school here anymore; it’s too dangerous.

When Mom and I were just chatting on the phone, she mentioned that when she was growing up, she and most of her peers didn’t celebrate birthdays, or maybe they did with just their families. Everyone was too busy with their family coffee farms. It’s interesting that the progeny of most of those families are now enjoying relative prosperity. Most no longer do manual labor. Few kids, if any, do manual work most of the day to help support the entire family. It’s a time of plenty, at least one car in every household (maybe one or more for each driver), fast food, mobile phones, the internet, social media, and inexpensive, frequent flights to and from the mainland.

Hawai’i has the highest life expectancy of all the states, at 80-81 years (different sources report slightly different numbers). It’s not uncommon to hear about centenarians or people in their 90’s. I think of Mrs. Teshima. In just the past week or two, several unrelated groups of visitors from California, all planned to eat at Teshima restaurant, a local institution, just south of Daifukuji. In the past few years, I’ve been eating there once or twice a week, usually for breakfast. From West Hawaii Today on 10/24/2013, “Mrs. Teshima, a well-known fixture in the Kona community who exemplified altruism, hard work and entrepreneurship, died Tuesday [10/22/13]. She was 106.” I found an article from this year, also from Images of Old Hawai’i, about Teshima’s.

For those of you who live here or who’ve been here, or been to Teshima restaurant, you might be able to follow my train of reflections. For the rest of you, maybe you’re reflecting on your own “old days.”

May Day is Lei Day

Time to celebrate Hawaiian culture with lei. Myself, I haven’t done anything special for the occasion, and in my limited goings about, I haven’t seen anything marking the day. But I know it’s celebrated and observed.

Today’s the appropriate day that they’re measuring the Guinness World Record attempt for longest lei. This article by Big Island Now was written back in February, but it tells a good story about this Guinness attempt. Reiko and I made our contributions last week when we went to Waikōloa Beach Marriott Resort and Spa and wove ti leaf lei for a half hour or so. It was fun. Reiko should have been the activity director. She talked story with the tourists learning lei-making, explaining the symbolism and importance of ti plants. The employee seemed rather introverted and shy. I contributed later by spreading the word a bit, so our friend’s guests went and contributed a few days later.

We didn’t get to see the hose reel with the lei, though. It has been stored in the freezer for months. Someone connects the daily contributions. We heard the reel has gotten really big and heavy. A friend saw it yesterday when it was brought out for display during Waikōloa’s Second Annual Lei Day celebration, but he didn’t take a picture. There’ll probably be something in the media in a day or two, I imagine. I read on the hotel’s Facebook posts that the “first official measurement” (new is the qualifier “first”) tallied just over a mile, two miles short to even tie the record. They plan to carry on.

We finished off April with 10 days of rain in a row (dry, April 29-30, though). I always wonder what tourists do when we have a lot of rain. I guess they can make ti leaf lei indoors, for one thing. Ten days of rain for us doesn’t mean it’s like that everywhere in West Hawai’i. There was a day or two, though, where it rained from before noon and it looked like rain was everywhere, which is unusual. On Friday we got four inches of rain from noon-4:30pm. When we reached the 3-inch mark, I exchanged texts with our friend who lives down the hill and less than six miles away. He only had 3/10 of an inch at that point. That is just so crazy to me. I visualized a cartoon of me sitting under my own personal storm cloud. We both got an inch in the following hour. Anyway, four inches is a lot of rain in a day for Kona, and April had almost 14″, which is a lot in a month. So the coffee land is looking a lot greener and the trees, plants, and weeds are all happily growing.

I’ve been wanting to write more about agroforestry, but that will be a future post. I’ll leave you with a related teaser. The most recent stay-informed email I received from our neighbor, the Hawai’i ‘Ulu Co’op, had this photo of our friend Berta quizzically examining an ‘ulu. The photo was a link to The ‘Ulu Co’op Story in 5 Minutes. She movingly opens the video with Hawaiian storytelling. We see her at Kahalu’u most times we’re there. I always learn from Berta, about marine life, ‘ulu, farming, the past, etc. She’s an amazing, knowledgable, generous woman. I’m sure she’s someone who’d appreciate a special lei.