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