Archive for the ‘Buy Local – means the buck stays here’ Category

Full of Beans

Full of Beans

Now that they’ve got their new roaster up and running, it’s safe to tell the world. Until a few months ago, it was only available by mail subscription, word of mouth marketing. If there wasn’t enough, tough luck, get on the waiting list.  I got a regular monthly subscription, which bumped up my seniority.

It is truly the best coffee I’ve ever had. I have friends in Europe who say it’s the best, and not too delicately suggest it as a holiday gift. A friend from Sydney subscribed.

OK, and why is a raving locavore who lives in Hawai’i’s coffee capital, Holualoa, Kona, gushing about coffee grown on the other side of the island?

In all other respects Hawaiian Cloud Forest Coffee (not the catchiest name, but I certainly prefer it to some of my regional ones like “Haole Boy” and “Donkey Balls”) is the poster child for a sustainable business.

Erik and Hillery Gunther have been farming in Hamakua for decades.  Off grid. Organic. Shade grown.  All power, including the new roasting mill is solar and natural gas.  They recently added 64 PV panels to accommodate the new machinery.  Don’t tell me sustainable ag on a small scale isn’t profitable.  Sure, they aren’t living in luxury, they live in beauty.  They hand built their house, a marvel of comfort and efficiency.  Besides farming, he hand makes wooden objects like koa bookmarks, and she makes beautiful jewelry.  They are really fabulous human beings too.

If I’d never met them, visited their farm, or known anything besides what it tastes like, Hawaiian Cloud would still be my #1 coffee.  I’ve been assuaging my conscience about supporting the local community by trying area estate coffees from time to time. Most are very good, but not that good.

I always get the dark roast now, but for about the first year I got the blend of dark and . . medium? I can’t remember, but it is really good too.  I did see it at Island Naturals recently, so the cherry red bag might be available retail elsewhere.  It’s so much more fun to get the package by mail.  To order: http://www.hawaiiancloudforestcoffee.com/

Erik and Hillery

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Most people under 60 don’t even remember ‘Ewa Sugar Plantation. It was famous for the twin orange and white banded smokestacks of the mill.  They were the only thing you could see on the entire ‘Ewa side of Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor) from Honolulu.  Sometime in the last twenty-five years they were torn down.  My Dad was the manager during its last decade of existence as the ‘Ewa Sugar Co.

A pretty nice house came with the job.  It was a gracious old two-story colonial on a couple acres of beautifully landscaped yard.  White, with dark green shutters, guest house, and a cottage.  Other structures included a poultry yard, mother’s orchid and anthurium hothouses, a laundry yard with clothes lines and a big sand box for my sister Mapuana and me.  We had patches of  banana, papaya, sweet potato, cherry tomato, watermelon, and spinach–besides the large herb and vegetable plots.  Even some of the garden flowers were edible, like nasturtiums (eaten only when Mapuana dared me or I lost a bet.)  Finally, but importantly, there was a dilapidated Quonset hut which was my dad’s “ham radio shack.”   Pure Manspace.

Sounds idyllic, and in many ways it was.  Not only my birthplace,  ‘Ewa Sugar Plantation imprinted the fundamentals of the s word on me:  sustainability. It was just normal life then.

As you can probably guess, my parents were not hippies, and no one had heard of a locavore.  But we did live in large part off our land, and local goods. My brother, was (and still is) a cowboy.  We would get a side of beef at a time from him. Besides what we procured on our own, our greater community rounded things out.

Mr. Ornellas was our source for pigs.  Mom would take us out to his place, thick with corrugated iron, and choking  hauna (stink) smell.  Never mind, she would talk story forever, and then pick out the lucky bugga for the imu.

The beekeeper kept his hives in a kiawe thicket. His odd costume and smoker for chasing the bees fascinated us.  Along with the bottles of honey, we also got a few combs.  Mapuana and I just tore off chunks, sucked out the honey, and chewed the wax like gum.

The milkman came to the kitchen door and replaced the empty milk bottles twice a week. Mapuana and I were the morning egg gatherers, but when our chickens weren’t laying enough eggs, he left some of them, too.

There were other plants which ended up on our table in some form: Meyer lemons, chili peppers, poha, starfruit, lychee, macadamia nut, coconut, Suriname cherry, limes, figs, guava, and one big Chinese mango; great for chutney and shoyu mango, but not the best eating. Mother spent days making pickles and relish from cucumbers we grew, jams, jellies, and chutney.  We even made our own mango and poha ice creams, unbelievaby delicious. Mapuana and I made shoyu mango with green mangoes.

Mother took us on outings for other specialties. Catching ‘opae in the ditches out toward Ma’ili was a favorite. We brought them home and put them in the outside cast iron bathtub (mostly used for washing dogs and freshly killed chickens.)  Soaking overnight in clean water flushed the mud out of them. Mauka hikes up Palehua meant mountain apples and liliko’i. Makai outings meant fresh ogo salad.

We shared what we had, as did everyone else, and all lived pretty well.

Even when we went to the grocery store we bought local brands.  ‘Ewa Shopping Basket, the general store, was a block from our house.  It carried a little everything. Along with supplemental produce, fresh meats and fish, we could buy dry goods, fishing supplies and Icees. We purchased only C&H sugar, of course. Meadow Gold dairy products, which back then came from Lani Moo and her pasture pals on the North Shore. Coral (Bumble Bee) Tuna. Aloha shoyu. Dole and DelMonte. Love’s bread.  S & S saimin. One Ton Pi and Lay’s potato chips.  It wasn’t a political statement; we knew where it came from, and local was just better. What happened in the last 30 years?  Grasses from the Americas, Japan, and China, are somehow greener than ours? Of course not. Globalization, efficiencies of the “free market” – where trade agreements and subsidies, thoroughly obfuscate true costs.

The Shopping Basket’s fish supply was limited. Grandmother lived on the water, so sometimes fishermen would stop by and share.  Sometimes it came from the hallowed Kalihi hall of Tamashiro Market.  We only went there on special occasions, and if there were other town errands to do since it was a long hour’s drive into town.

Once I remember a boy about my age, shyly (well I was anyway) watching the live prawns (?) wiggle around in their giant glass tanks. The tanks were well within child’s reach. The cute boy with curly dark hair stretched his hand over the tank, giving my freckled face a daring look.  Not to be outdone, I reached to grab a nice big one just behind its pincers. Quickly he pulled my hand away.  I hadn’t seen the even bigger guy below my target with claws spread.  We smiled, and then mother called me to the checkout line.

Thirty-something years later I met a man who lives in Holualoa, who told me the same story, except the prawns were bigger. That would be Joe, and we’re still friends.

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