Some come for the sun, sand and surf, and others come for a decent cuppa joe

“I could serve coffee using my rear as a ledge.”
Jennifer Lopez

The foregoing quote has absolutely nothing to do with this blog, other than the mention of coffee. I just happened to like it as much as I admire Miss Lopez’s greatest asset (no pun intended).

But coffee is the gist of what these words are about. Primarily Kona Coffee, which is right up there with Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee as being among the Rolls Royces of the devil’s brew.

I love me my coffee. Rich, strong and dark is the way I like it. Rich, strong and dark with no bitterness. Sorry Starbucks, but you don’t make the cut in the bitterness regard despite the fact I admire you for bringing other coffee joints up to the mark and moving them past the dishwater swill that once passed for coffee.

Kona coffee and our love thereof (despite its cost per pound) brought us to a classy and classic little coffee plantation one day and it proved to be one of the high points of our trip. This was one of the original plantations on the island and was started by Isei and Nisei Japanese Hawaiians in the 1920s. It was small in numbers of trees but still productive. The day we were there the coffee pickers were also there, and in the older plantations it is still all hand-picked, it was explained to us.

While this site was still a working farm it also contained a great little museum and offered tours – self-guided tours. And a lovely little donkey named Charlie. He doesn’t pertain to the story as such, but we liked him, so I told him I’d mention him in a blog.

It was explained to us that the plantation has thrived since the day it began and is now operated by the third generation of the family that started it. The Hawaiians of Japanese extraction were not ‘interned’ during World War Two, unlike the racist-inspired internships (being dumped in concentration camps, more correctly) that were imposed on Mainland Japanese Americans. Why not in Hawaii? Well, mainly because they were the largest ethnic group in the islands, so it would have meant imprisoning more than half the population.

Anyway, we toured a coffee mill of ancient mien, but still a working mill. We saw how the picked beans were cured in the heat of the sun (there’s lots of that there) and then packed into burlap sacks prior to being shipped out to the marketplace.

More interesting in some respects was the original plantation house. A clapboard dwelling, open to the air all over the place but decked out Japanese style, including a bedroom with futon mats on the floor, a kitchen with a smoking wood stove that burned coffee wood, and I found it difficult to imagine the poor Mama-san having to prepare three squares over a flame in the Hawaiian heat. But in all of this, the house was really homey and I could have imagined living there. It reminded me a bit of my grandmother’s house, especially the fragrance of the wood-burning stove. Took me back, it did. 

So did the lady of the house who explained it all to us, including why the kitchen sink was so low. “Because the Japanese were short,” she said. She was short, too, being a woman of her generation. Short and very mumsy. I’d like to have sat in that little old house with her being my mom. I liked her.

Elsewhere on the plantation there were vegetable gardens and a chicken run and a couple of orange trees. Hawaiian oranges are arguably the least acidic and most flavorful to be found, and we were encouraged to pick some, which we did.

I also found out a couple of other factoids that day:

The ripe coffee fruit is known as a ‘cherry’ and the unripe (green) is a berry. And coffee cherries are red and sweet like regular cherries and not the least bit coffee-ish.

Also, Mama-san in the house explained to us, as we observed a vibrantly green gecko on the wall, that feral Madagascar Geckos (they’re quite striking) have been methodically wiping out the familiar Hawaiian gecko. Kind of sad. I blame that green Michael Caine speaking gecko on the Geico Insurance ads for being behind this changing trend in bitsy reptiles. I may be wrong.


9 responses to “Some come for the sun, sand and surf, and others come for a decent cuppa joe

  1. I really enjoyed this post! It is so informative, and the photos are a fabulous.

    I, too, love Kona coffee. (I haven’t tried Jamaican Blue Mountain yet, but it’s on my wish list.) Like you, I prefer my coffee “rich, strong and dark.” (Sumatra Dark Black Satin is one of the smoothest, best-tasting coffees on the planet.) I was a die-hard tea drinker until two years ago. I still love my tea, but I’ll take a good cup of joe any day. 🙂

  2. I’m out picking our coffee with our regular pickers….with our microclimate the berries ripen in the rainy season…and with the heavy downpours threatened for the next few weeks there’s a risk of the ripe stuff just being knocked to the ground and lost.
    Our steep hillside makes me think of the vineyards in the Moselle….we should have pulleys and tractors….but, having tried both, give me grape picking over coffee picking any time!
    People here pick into a basket tied round their waist….not me. One try at getting down a slope with that decided me that a bucket and going a bit slower was preferable to going arse over elbow downhill at speed when unbalanced by the weight of the basket.

    • Wish I lived in a coffee growing climate. Where you are is nearly Coffee-Central. In Hawaii children used to pick coffee and put the cherries in the tin cans shown in the photo of the mill.

  3. Lovely post, despite the fact that I despise the taste of coffee. But that smell! Most enticing. We have a love hate relationship, coffee and I.

  4. I know how you feel about coffee, but it’s great that you savor the aroma. The Japanese householder in the photo also wasn’t a coffee drinker.

  5. Invader species! The Asian Carp is here in Minnesota, wreaking havoc as well, and where is Michael Caine when you need him?

    Love when you say things like “mumsy”. 🙂

    Interesting fact about the Hawaiian Japanese not being “interned”. I didn’t know that…


  6. Actually, my ‘mumsy’ reference was another nod to Michael Caine who used the word in the original and infinitely superior ‘Alfie’, and I always liked it.

    Not only were the Japanese not interned, but the 422nd Army Infantry was one of the most widely decorated in WW II. Sen . Daniel Inouye was a member of the 422 ‘Go For Broke’ Sqdn and that was how he lost his arm.

  7. Except for my 6pm ice cold mocha, I do not drink coffee, but like Jazz, I enjoyed the aroma when I used to work in offices. Of course that nice coffee/office aroma was always ruined in the afternoons when someone made microwave buttered popcorn and stunk up the whole building.

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