Greetings in 2023! I hope your year is off to a good start. This post’s photo is a humorous take on Japanese kagami mochi for the new year. For a proper kagami mochi, there should be two round mochi, a larger one supporting a smaller one, and on top of them, a citrus with one leaf. The mochi represents the going year and the coming year. The citrus, daidai, means generations. Everything about this photo is wrong: one dented, hard mochi, a huge citrus, with more than one leaf.
This citrus is one of the two navel oranges Bea had on her tree this year, and she kindly insisted we eat the only two oranges. Her oddly low orange yield reminded me of our coffee yield. Anyway, it was special, so I wanted to commemorate its existence. At the time we only had one store-bought mochi left after our New Year’s ozoni mochi soup. The mochi that was lovingly, thoughtfully handmade by friends for us, had, and must still be having, a big adventure this year, thanks to Southwest Airlines and the U.S. Postal Service. I wonder if it will meet up with a six pound coffee package that has gone missing. Why is it always the larger packages that get shipped to the wrong place or get lost, and not a half pound order?
A few non-coffee-drinking friends had asked about the Mauna Loa eruption back in December, so I shared the link to the two posts I made about it. They were surprised to see that I’ve maintained blogging for many years. You do something regularly, and after a while, it all adds up. Thus the title, “keep on keepin’ on.”
My recent posts were not so much, or at all, about coffee, more about “this Hawaiian life.” I guess my topics are about our coffee, weather and problems that affect our coffee, other things we grow or encounter on our farm, coffee in general, Kona, Big Island volcanoes, modern and older Hawaiian culture and history having to do with the Kona Coffee Belt, and namesake Bea (Mom).
We went to see Bea in Southern California this holiday. We flew Hawaiian Airlines and kept our seatbelt firmly fastened so we wouldn’t dent the ceiling if we encountered severe turbulence. It rained more frequently than usual, i.e., it rained, period. Ha ha. The Rose Parade in Pasadena (less than 40 miles away from Bea) is always on New Year’s Day, but not if it’s on a Sunday. That worked out well this year, since it rained on New Year’s Day but was beautiful the Monday after. I just googled about rain and the Rose Parade, and this was the answer: “In the 1st 60 years(about) it rained 9 times. In the next 60 years (about) it rained once.”
Bea still had fruit on her Buddha’s hand tree. I’ve posted on Instagram, but here they are in the blog, too. I just ordered a little entry tree from California-based Four Winds Growers. They’re allowed to ship to Hawai’i. We’re already successfully growing a seedless kumquat and a yuzu from them. I want to grow my own shaka and octopus! It’s worth it for the heavenly fragrance of the fruit. I’m content just leaving it in the house to smell it. The zest will add specialness to any recipe calling for citrus zest. A cranberry recipe is better with zest from a Buddha’s hand instead of orange or lemon. I mention cranberries because Bea’s fruit always seems to be ripe around Thanksgiving.
On another note, we gave my mom a more interesting tea than we realized. We bought it since it was made of Hawaiian ingredients. We knew māmaki and lemongrass, and we completely ignored the second listed ingredient, butterfly pea. We hadn’t paid close attention to the description, and neither did she. “For when you need a little extra magic in your life, a captivating, color-changing tea.”
The first time we drank it, it was like we all expected. It was māmaki (supposed to be good for you), and tasted better because of the other ingredients. It was the second night we had some that we all noticed, “Hey, it’s green!” It hadn’t seemed to be that weird green color the first night. Then we studied the packaging. If you add citrus, it’s supposed to change color. Apparently butterfly pea is known to mixologists (hello, Big Joe!) for its vivid color and ability to change color.
There you have it. Maybe you’ve learned something new, like we have.
OK, on to coffee. The past coffee season is really over now that we have strip-picked all fruit as part of our coffee hygiene. This way borer beetles and other pests won’t have homes. Our cherry harvest, in the end was 24% of the previous season’s harvest. I’ve mentioned a figure close to that a few times, but now it’s final. I’ll be interested to see how much green coffee of estate quality we’ll end up with after dry milling. Somehow I expect it’ll be less than 24% of last year’s green coffee, i.e., I think we’ll have more smaller and inferior quality beans. Our estate coffee has to be of certain grades: Extra Fancy, Fancy, and Number 1, and Prime, and is comprised of those grades in the ratios we get when we harvest. The grades lower than Prime won’t be in our estate coffee. I suspect we’ll probably just have even less estate coffee to offer than 24% of the previous season’s amount. Sigh.
This “dry” season (October-February) has not been too dry so far. I’m not implying that’s good or bad. The rainfall chart below starts in October, which is the start of the dry season. It’s also when the Kainaliu rain gauge annually restarts its cumulative count. The cumulative rainfall of the previous entire dry season, from Oct’21-Feb’22, was 7.7 inches. We got 7.5 inches just in December 2022. I study the chart and can see no trends year to year in these past few years, which have been very dynamic with Kīlauea starting and stopping. Three sentence volcano eruption summary: From 1983 to 2018 eruptive activity was nearly continuous, then it stopped. It resumed December 2020 to May 2021, stopped, then resumed September 2021. And Mauna Loa started at the end of November 2022, after a 38 year hiatus, then stopped mid-December.
Forward and onward. We had another decent blossoming round, from the rain we received around Christmas. Someone reassured me that the season following a Mauna Loa eruption tends to be good. I don’t know about the implied cause and effect, but I’d feel better with at least a decent season after this one. There are definitely optimistic farmers out there. Aunty planted 50 new, rust-resistant seedlings. And some others are clearing acres of land and planting trees with the vision of some really high output per acre, more than we get from our three acres. You go, happy farmers!
I’ll close with a cute photo of UH in Holualoa feeding a donkey ti leaves on New Year’s Eve day. He must have been reminiscing about his old chore of caring for the family Kona nightingale.