2013 Grateful 51

What I know about coffee could be written on the back of a small jar of instant Nescafé. I’ve done the unmentionable and ordered a cappuccino after 11am in Italy, and asked for milk for my Turkish coffee in Sarajevo. I thought coffee beans grew on trees and that cherries were horrible little red fruit that were marinated in embalming fluid (I’d believe anything, I know) and resurrected in those nasty Mozart chocolates sold in Vienna and Budapest. So when I got to visit Waipuna’ula Red Spring Farm on the big island of Hawaii last week, I got more than great company and a fine lunch (complete with cowboy caviar and the best guacamole I’ve had this side of the Mexican border); I got me an education (note: that last bit was written in my best American accent).

The golden tangerine tree

The golden tangerine tree

Before we get to the coffee, let’s take a quick look around this farm, home to the D’Angelo family for the last five or so years. It is a veritable fountain of fruit. To quote the lady in residence,  it’s as if Sleeping Beauty woke up and started living. Everything there is so alive, so full of energy, so beautiful. Thirty-one macadamia nut trees yield about 9000 lbs of nuts. One tangerine tree that just started bearing fruit this year has already offered up 500 lbs of delectable little orange fruit.

Avocados

Macademia nuts

Macadamia nuts

Then there’s my favourite, the avocado trees, that have tossed down about 1000 lbs of the sweetest tasting avo I’ve ever tasted. And it doesn’t stop there. On 5.63 acres of land (minus the quarter acre the converted coffee shack sits on) guava, lemons, limes, star fruit, lilikoi, vi apples, papaya, grapefruit, oranges, pineapple, bananas, jaboticaba (whose fruit grows out of the actual tree rather than on a branch), and God only knows what else grows.

Guava trees

Guava trees

Pineapple bush

Pineapple bush

Apart from the fact that I had never heard of half the fruit I saw, or didn’t realise that coffee doesn’t grow on trees, I also didn’t know that pineapples come from bushes. And, if you plant the head of the pineapple, it will grow into a bush in about 18 months and give one pineapple every six months or so. Am sooooooo tempted to try this in my living room. Seems like a lot of trouble to go to, but it would make for some interesting conversation. I might have better luck if I planted coffee beans though – they take way longer to grow.

And now the coffee. Think wine. And vines. Coffee bushes can be trellised, just like vines. Who’d have known? The trees on Waipuna’ula are 60-80 years old and the ground is a little orangey, sits high up on the slopes of Hualalai, and yields cherries that make coffee that is… wait for it… future sold. Yes, there’s a limited number of roasts each year, so if you fancy a cup in 2013, you’d better get your order in soon.

Kona snow

Kona snow

When the coffee bushes are in bloom, they’re covered with tiny white flowers, giving rise to a phenomenon known as Kona snow. I was lucky to see the last of it. Think cherry blossoms in Washington DC and you’ll get the picture. When the cherry (the fruit of the coffee bush) is red, it’s picked. Some farms pick them all together – yellow, green, red – but on Waipuna’ula, they stay on the bush till they’re red. And then they’re handpicked. Cherry by cherry. Each cherry has two beans with flattened facing sides. On occasion, when only one of the two beans is fertilised, a single bean forms – this is called a peaberry. Apparently around 5% of all coffee beans harvested are peaberries. There’s a piece of trivia that might come in handy at a pub quiz!

Beans on a bush

Beans on a bush

Some farms will sell their cherries directly to the coffee makers for about $1.6o/lb. Others will send the red cherries for wet milling where they are pulped and the skin is removed. What’s left is called parchment. These are then dry milled where the final skin is removed and the green beans can sit for 9 months to a year before being roasted. It takes about 300 lbs of cherry to get 100 lbs of parchment. From tree to cup, it takes about 8 lbs of cherry to get 1 lb of actual coffee. And like wine, coffee varies in quality from farm to farm. As with France and champagne, only coffee grown in Kona can be labelled as Kona Coffee. And like real champagne, Kona coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world.

Yes, in my backyard

Yes, in my backyard

What the D’Angelos have done with the coffee shack they moved into five years ago is just one tiny indication of the family’s many talents. They have plans to start a B&B and the guest room literally oozes a type of calm that inspires creativity and will probably give birth to many a memoir in the years to come. The gardens are beautiful and there’s a pervasive energy that heals and renews. I spent about three hours on Waipuna’ula Red Spring Farm and I swear that I came away with more than a full belly, an insight into farm life on the big island, and  the coffee I bought.

Makes a lawned suburban garden look just a tad tame

Makes a lawned suburban garden look just a tad tame

I have a feeling, deep in my waters, that for some reason, my visit was preordained. I can’t quite explain it. This week, as I settle back in to life in Budapest, I’m grateful that I had the chance to visit Waipuna’ula and to meet the D’Angelos again. That people still have the courage and the faith to read the signs and follow the path that has chosen them is inspiring. That they so readily share their world with others is even more so. Mahalo.

2013 Grateful 52

I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for quite a while. Months, in fact. Life has been busy. Work has been manic. And I find it difficult to say no. But I’m getting better. My trouble is that although I know I don’t  have the time or the energy, if a project sounds interesting and will teach me something, then even though my brain says NO! my mouth says YES! The result is that in 2012, I sometimes had to pull all-nighters to get through it all. This year, I’m resolving to take better care of my eyes, my body, and my self. I’m going to better manage my time, and take more time for me.

IMG_1524 (800x600)The first step down this road of resolution, was to catch up on my sleep. I’d  run out of sleep credit and had gotten to the stage that to sleep through the night was a miracle. I needed some serious down time and where better to find it than in Hawaii. Life on the big island is slow and laid back. People are of the ‘early to bed, early to rise’ ilk and the restorative power of the sun cannot be underestimated.

IMG_1598 (800x600)Sun, I hear you say? Sun? Yes, I know I’m no great lover of the sun, and would prefer 20 below to 40 above any day, but sunsets are a different story. Down at Kawaihae Harbour (one of the two main harbours on the Big Island of Kona) one evening, we sat watching the sun go down. Situated in North Kohala, it was here in 1793 that the first horses and cattle brought the island were docked. It’s still in operation and is also a good sighting point for humpbacked whales.

IMG_1590 (800x589)IMG_1576Often home to the Makalii, one of three traditional Hawaiian sailing canoes, it was from here that  King Kamehameha and his entourage set out in canoes to conquer the neighboring islands. It didn’t take much to imagine what life might have been like back then. A couple of sailboats dotted the horizon and had I been able to bottle the salt-aired serenity, I’d be a very rich woman. That night, I slept like a baby – for the third night in a row. I woke at 6.30 am, fully awake. Perhaps it’s the sea air. Perhaps it’s the sun. Perhaps it’s the company. Whatever it is, this week, I’m truly grateful that I’ve rediscovered the joy of sleep and to my friends D&SF for sharing their refuge with me and being there for me over the years.

Way back in 1994, I visited an old boyfriend in Washington State. We spent the weekend at Ocean Shores with D&SF and their friends M&DW. That last-minute change to my travel plans resulted in a friendship that has spanned nearly 20 years. When I moved back to the States later that year, I went to live with them in Longview, Washington, where they graciously adopted me as one of their own for nine months and even forgave me for flooding their home with suds when I put washing-up liquid in the dishwasher!

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Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52