Ana's Coffee Trip in Hawaii
Posted on January 17 2022,
Before COVID-19, all the restrictions that came with it, and before we launched Casa Dos Chicas Café, I went on a life-changing excursion. What began as a girls’ trip to celebrate my dear friend Tonda’s birthday, unknowingly became an introduction to the world of coffee.
First time in Hawaii
I had never visited Hawaii, so I was not ready for the 13-hour flight from New York City. Nor was I ready for the Hawaiian airports! We landed in Honolulu, a spectacular urban city. Everyone was friendly, beautiful, and laid back. Even the bathroom signs at the airport were beautiful--I truly felt welcomed. The lovely people I met while visiting the various islands, from the hotel staff to the local people, were so sweet and humble--we need more people like them in this world!
We went island hopping & took short flights to 4 different islands--O’ahu, Hawai’i, Kaua’i, and Maui.
Different kinds of airport
The airports were small and mostly outside. This in and of itself was fun and laid back. Going from the gate to baggage claim all outside in the open sunny air! Getting a nice breeze while the airplane pulled up was amazing. We had a bird fly right up to us while we waited to board our flights.
If you ever fly to Hawaii, make a note to plan on checking in all of your bags. The planes are small and carry-ons are most likely going to be checked in plane-side.
The gift of a lifetime
Before I partnered with Oneida to start up Casa Dos Chicas Café, I had talked about starting a business selling coffee. Knowing this, Tonda wanted to gift me the experience of touring a coffee farm in Hawaii.
Since the only coffee grown in the United States is grown in Hawaii and California, this was my chance to see the production first hand. We called the farm (the biggest coffee farm in the US), scheduled the tour, rented a car, and headed out the next morning.
We drove through the mountains and had breakfast at a local cafe. I was so happy that we were doing this! I learned so much about coffee. Being a coffee lover, I enjoyed brewing coffee in the many different preparation methods (Chemex, French Press, Espresso, Moka Pot, etc) but had not seen the seed to cup process. It was amazing.
The tour begins
We walked around the shop and talked to the staff. They were so full of knowledge and their service was excellent. One of the biggest takeaways from this tour was understanding the coffee grind sizes. Never having been a barista, I kept my grinder on the medium grind setting, since most of my coffee was for pour-overs. Now I use all the different settings on my grinder at home.
Best. Day. Ever.
It was a rainy day and we were worried the tour might be canceled, but they were willing to take us out if we still wanted to go. So, of course, we hopped on the back of the truck ready to go, and had the experience of a lifetime!
We enjoyed every single bit of the day. The coffee plants grew beautifully along the coastal mountainside of the island. They looked so majestic against the mountains and the sea.
Mid-morning, a rainbow came out that we witnessed from end-to-end--it was the first time I had seen the entire rainbow! It is difficult to see the entire arc amongst the tall building in New York City.
To me, this was a sign that God was watching over us and confirming my heart's desire, and I felt at peace.
Out in nature, anything can happen & to our surprise, we encountered a few adorable wild boars (Hawaii feral pigs).
There was a mother and her babies running around, clearly trying to avoid us. These boars are not ordinarily bothered and are allowed to roam freely through the fields. They help move the soil under their feet using their tusks when digging as they wander through the lands.
The Hawaii feral pigs are commonly seen throughout the islands; however, they are not native to Hawaii. They were brought over by the Polynesians when they inhabited the various islands around 1200 AD.
The vegetation on the islands
As we made our way through the tour, learning about the sugar plantation that was once fully operational, we saw different vegetation and tons of small plants that grew along the creek.
Historically, the islands had been dominated by a plantation economy. They continue to be a major agricultural exporter due to their fertile soil and uniquely tropical climate in the U.S.
Our driver brought us some ripe berries to taste. I opened one and the 2 beans were in there! These coffee cherries ripen to a yellow color. Different coffee varieties ripen to different colors, and I was only used to seeing the deep red!
Did you know it takes about 5 years for a coffee plant to begin bearing fruit?
This makes plant management crucial. Great care not only goes into the planting through seedling stages but once the plant is established, having it produce fruit continuously, takes even greater care.
At this farm, every several years after the trees have been harvested, the tops are cut off. They do this to preserve the fruit-bearing life of the plant.
It wasn't harvesting season yet, but they showed us the harvesting machines and they are huge! I now understand the difference between commercial coffee and specialty coffee. Commercial coffee growers use these machines during the harvest season when most of the coffee is ripe, which is great for getting most of the cherries off the tree. These machines run day and night, 7 days a week for about 3 months to get all the berries from the shrubs.
However, not only do ripe coffee cherries get harvested, but also, under-ripe, over-ripe, and even plant parts sometimes get picked up!
Specialty coffee, which is what Casa Dos Chicas Café sells, is harvested, normally year-round by hand from small lots. This ensures that perfectly ripe coffee cherries are picked for processing.
We headed to the plant where the harvested coffee is processed, washed, sorted, roasted, ground, and bagged. WHEW!
The coffee is first washed where most of the actual fruit is removed as well as any unwanted debris, like leaves, branches, etc. The coffee is then sent to the sorter where the coffee is selected for drying. The coffee seeds, commonly referred to as beans, are dried outside. Once dried, the coffee beans are sent to the roasting machines where master roasters know exactly what temperature for the exact time to get the coffee perfect for their customers.
The coffee is set to rest before being ground and bagged. I like to grind my coffee at home right before I brew my daily cup. This keeps the coffee a bit fresher.
As you can see and now know, a lot of work goes into that bag of coffee you get from your favorite coffee shop!
Making our way to the coast
We left the plant and headed to another side of the farm where they discard the chaff and other waste from the coffee production process. The piles are dried out in the sun. I wish I could explain the fragrance that the wind was whipping up--I felt embraced by the essence of freshly roasted coffee all around me.
The drying process
We went to the drying patio and learned the laborious process of drying. This is where specialty coffee uses the terms, natural, washed, and honey process. Here they normally wash their coffee beans.
The cherry and the fruit are washed off down to the filament, a paper-like layer around the coffee bean, and set out to dry outside for 3-6 days. The coffee beans are then raked every several hours to ensure even drying.
The tour ended with us planting new coffee plants. There was no better culmination to an exciting and educating time than to put back into the earth that which we took out. That felt so surreal. Doing that, inspired me to plant my coffee plants at home in my urban garden. Let's see if they give fruit in 5 years!
Maybe my next trip will be to Colombia? It is the 3rd largest coffee producer in the world and our coffee, Kojee, is from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Maria mountain region in Colombia. 19 families have come together to produce this consistently outstanding coffee that is certified organic.
I had no idea that all this work went into a cup of coffee. After the day's experience, I appreciate coffee a lot more. It is a true culture that is to be experienced, appreciated, and respected.
Don't forget to visit our website to order from our amazing coffee collection and sign up for updates from Casa Dos Chicas as we explore the world of coffee.
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