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What it takes to make a cup of coffee …

The first year that we harvested coffee from our own plants and roasted it, we didn’t get much. We had a couple of pounds of processed coffee.  The processing of that first batch taught us a lot.  Everything that first year was done by hand.  We hand pulped the coffee and hulled the parchment by hand as well, as we had no equipment.  Those two bags were precious, and I wouldn’t have sold them for anything (well maybe for a whole lot of money, and I’m talking a few grand).  I barely wanted to offer anyone a cup of coffee, let alone a bag.  It was a LOT of work, and after that I can say that I truly appreciate a cup of coffee because I literally know the work that goes into making it.

I’m not a huge coffee drinker, and reserve it mostly for the weekends sitting on the porch in the morning before we start our day.  But I think anyone who grows things, whether it be on a huge farm, or a backyard plot, or herbs grown in a planter on the kitchen window, understands the work done to have producing plants.  That translates to the taste of the products grown.  Whether it actually tastes better may be subjective, but it’s yours from your hard work, so yeah, it tastes the best, better than anything you’ve ever tasted before.  AND just for the record, I want to be clear from an purely objective view point, our coffee is the best coffee around, and not because we’ve grown, just because it actually is.

So over the last few years, we’ve progressed from hand processing to buying equipment to assist with that processing.  That was a quick decision; hand pulping a bucket of coffee cherries is one thing, it simply can’t be done when you have any bulk.  Well sure it can be done, but not without losing your sanity, and without any level of efficiency.  So our first pulper was one that we have now, we’ve just added the motor this year.  Seriously can I get an “Amen” for electricity.   We picked about 10 gallons of coffee yesterday, and that little motor got it done in minutes.  There is something to hand cranking, and muscles gained in the process, but after picking for two hours, you don’t want to hand crank anything.

IMG_0975with the hand crank

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The cherry is the red coffee bean

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So the hubby and I got in a little disagreement last week about when to pick.  He thought we should wait a week, and I thought he didn’t want to pick that weekend, and he was coming up with excuses.  But well, he was right.  We waited a week, and our cherries are a beautiful dark red, and clearly that weren’t quite ready to pick the week before.  The picture above shows a little bit of whitish residue on our cherry and leaves.  That is a clay we are using to manage the coffee borer beetle, and it works like a charm.  It’s all natural, and organic, and we’ve had a lot of success with that.  We had probably 5 beans yesterday that showed coffee borer damage, and that’s out of 10 gallons.

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So after you get the red cherry off the bean, you ferment your beans. Best fermenting times are 8 – 14 hours, it depends, on the quantity of beans you have, the temperature,  and the kind of bean.  When you take the red part of the bean, you’re left with two slimy half beans.  They’re slippery, and hard to pick up if they fall on the ground because of that mucilage.  So the fermenting part, gets rid of that mucilage.  Too much fermenting can change the taste of the coffee bean.  It’s an art, growing and processing is an art.  It’s an art we’re learning, which means one day our coffee, which is already really good, will be even better.

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fermented bean (they get all bubbly)

After fermentation is done, you rinse the beans off with water, and lay the coffee out on dry racks.  We now have a little house my husband built.  Today, it’s raining, so that house is awesome.  Our first go at dry racks worked well, but they were only protected from the elements from three sides, so during raining season, we did have some beans go bad with mold.  This shouldn’t happen in our dry house. Again, something we learned along the way.

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Drying coffee can take about a week or so.  Yesterday it got up to 104 degrees in the dry house.  We have a fan in there as well.  Ideally you want it less than 100 degrees, but hot, hence the drying part.  But Mother Nature has a lot of control over that.    You dry the coffee so that the bean has about 10 -12% moisture left.  This is something my husband can tell.  He literally bites the bean and he can tell if its dry enough.  I’m still learning this part.  Once dry, you can store coffee with its parchment on for up to two years.  We keep ours in large burlap bags, until we’re ready to roast it.

When it’s time to roast, you remove the parchment.  This is the paper like part covering the bean.  We had a small hand parchment remover, which was fine when we just wanted to roast a batch for ourselves.  But we’d have to put the coffee beans in a few times to fully remove the parchment.  Not only was it time consuming, but it would damage some the beans in the process.  So we ended up buying the electric huller.  Again, can I get an “Amen” for electricity.  This will save us a lot of time.  I’m not going to lie, it was spendy, but we decided to go for it, as we’re going to be doing all our own processing.

IMG_0138.JPGcoffee be a with parchment on top, coffee bean (green bean) with parchment removed on bottom

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old huller

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new huller

Once the parchment is off you can roast.  For our coffee, we’ve found that that French Roast or dark roast leads to a really smooth coffee taste – not fruity, and little to no bitter after taste.

IMG_1013.JPGThen we weigh it, and bag it in 1/2 pound or pound bags, and put our pretty label on it.

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There is a whole other discussion on how to actually to brew your coffee. I will say, don’t grind the bean until you’re ready to actually make your coffee.  That preserves the quality of your bean the best.  But using a French press, or ninja machine, or regular coffee brewer, is a whole conversation in and of itself.

And that my friends, in a nutshell is how you make a cup of coffee …

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When life give you lemons …

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make limoncello.  It took a lot longer to do than I had planned.  Making limoncello is actually easy.  You basically peel lemons and then scrape off all the pith and put the pithless rinds in a jar with some alcohol.  I chose vodka.  I made limoncello once before with Everclear; it tasted like rubbing alcohol.  Okay, well I’ve never actually tasted rubbing alcohol, but that’s what it smelled like and my limoncello was horrible.  It was a waste.  So this time, I took my time and really made sure all the pith was off which was pretty time consuming – hence the “it took longer than I had planned” part.  For those who don’t know the pith is the white stuff on the inside of a rind, and when making limoncello that pith will ruin your liqueur.  I followed a recipe just to insure I had the right proportions and used 10 Meyer lemons.   I choose vodka because I’ve had success making liqueurs with that before.  I made jelly out of the remaining parts of the lemon.  If the limoncello doesn’t come out, at least I have the jelly.  That tasted good, it takes like lemonade in a jar.

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I also finished making the pineapple liqueur.  It’s okay tasting, just a hint of pineapple.  I think I may have let it sit too long, which I didn’t know was possible.  My son said he had some made by someone else, and they only let it sit overnight and their’s was delicious.  Next time I’ll try it that way.  The lilikoi, however, I know tastes better sitting.  I tried it yesterday, it was okay.  I need to add more lilikoi, but we don’t have any currently, so I’m waiting.  You can see the pineapple liqueur in the top left corner of the picture.

For the limoncello, the recipe said let it sit for 3 days, so I will do that and see what happens.  Crossing my fingers it comes out okay because we have so many lemons, and this would make a really nice Christmas gift.  I bought some really pretty bottles at Ben Franklin the other day just for this purpose.

We should have plenty of coffee this year, so I’ll be making my coffee liqueur like I do each year.  For coffee liqueurs I usually use rum instead of vodka for the alcohol.  I like making liqueurs because it’s a different way of preserving what we grow, they’re easy to make, and they’re the perfect gift to bring when invited to a holiday party.

Busy, busy, busy

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This week was crazy busy at work, the weekend couldn’t come soon enough.  I think this is the first weekend in 3 weeks we don’t have to be anywhere.  That means one thing, we have a lot of catching up to do on the farm.

David got out on the boat Monday for a solo fishing trip.  He launched out of Laupahoehoe.  It doesn’t have the best ramp, so conditions have to be pretty perfect to go out, and it was.  I helped him launch, but he got in all on his own.

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He caught hapu’upu’u (Hawaiian sea bass), and opakapaka (pink snapper), and kawakawa (mackerel tuna). He dried the kawakawa, and then we had Chinese style hapu’upu’u and opakapaka.  This is my absolute favorite way to have fish.

You steam the fish in ti leaves with ginger and garlic, my husband adds onions too.  Then when it’s cooked, you pour hot steaming peanut oil over it, add a little shoyu, and it’s done.  Actually it’s perfect.  My mouth waters just thinking about it.  It’s a really good way to cook white fish.  I’ve never done a tuna that way, and am not so sure how that would work.

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David finished the dry house this week.  That’s where he dried the fish and we have some coffee in there now drying as well.  Well almost finished, he needs to add some more screening on the left hand side.  He did a great job.  It’s going to serve us well.

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We had our morning coffee on the porch and then got to picking coffee early before it got too hot.  We picked out about five gallons in a little over an hour.  I processed the coffee, and am super happy to report that we had very little beans damaged by the borer beetle. We’re doing a really good job of staying on top of treatments.  It’s only 11:00 a.m. and it’s already super hot, so I took a quick break to jump in the pool, throw some laundry in, and blog.  This afternoon, we’ll be picking bananas and pretty much the last of the dragon fruit for drying.  We have a little fish left from Monday so we’ll be having fish for dinner … Chinese stye of course.

Ducks and Chickens

A few months back, I posted in the blog about one of our ducks that we had to hand raise as the mom rejected it.  We ended up getting a couple of chicks from our neighbor so we wouldn’t have to raise it alone.  IMG_0884.JPG

We lost one of the chicks early, but the other one survived.  He’s a rooster, and he’s really beautiful as far as roosters go.

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This is them now.  I’m not sure if the chicken thinks it’s a duck or the duck thinks it’s a chicken.  But I guess it doesn’t really matter, because they’re buddies and are pretty inseparable.  Perhaps they could teach us all a little about diversity.

We’re winding down on mango season.  This year we had a nice size crop, we gave a few a handful, but kept most ourselves.  Our mango trees are still young, so hopefully in the next few years, we’ll be seeing a larger yield.

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The tree that this came from is small, but we got two small “seasons” out it this year.  We had a nice batch of about 10 mangoes, then about a month later it flowered again, and we had a few more.  This is from the second batch.  It’s a Rapoza mango.  Not only is it a beautiful looking mango, but one of the most delicious varieties.

The hubby is almost done with our new dry house.  It’s so hot in the house even though it’s not finished, he limits his working time to early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  I walked in it just to test the temperature, and man was it HOT.  It was already a warm day yesterday, but inside that room, I’d say it was a good 10 degrees hotter.  I’ll do a temperature test once it’s finished.  It’s going to dry that coffee (and fish, and herbs, and tomatoes ….) so fast.

We’re still experiencing draught conditions on the property.  We’d love a good rain here.  Hilo has been getting a lot of rain, but unfortunately it hasn’t made it up to the coast at all.  While we have some irrigation, we don’t it over the entire farm area, so yesterday morning, we had to hand water a lot of plants.  David scooped buckets of water from the ponds, while I had the hose watering the coffee and cacao.

IMG_1068.JPGThis is from this morning – a side view of some of the farm.  You can see the grass is brown.  Yesterday I was walking around barefoot.  The grass is crunchy and HOT, I had to run up and get my slippers.  We had a guest yesterday on the property and we were talking about our Ohia tree.  I picked a blossom to show him, and then remembered that according to Hawaiian legend if you pick a blossom it will rain that day.  There are different versions of the legend, but in both the picking of the blossom represents the separating of the lovers Ohia and Lehua, and Lehua (the blossom) cries for her love.  But alas no rain, at least not at our house.

Summer salad 

dragon fruit, white pineapple, starfruit, black raspberry, mango, tangerines, Banana, a squeeze of lime juice and some mint for garnish

Home is my happy place

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I’ve been on Oahu for a week on business and the weekend before we were there visiting family.  It’s nice to be home.  I got up early and exercised.  This is actually quite a big deal for me because I fell of the exercise wagon awhile back, and couldn’t even see the dust of the wagon anymore – that’s how long it’s been.  I started back up on Oahu because our training started later than I normally go to work and since my commute was an elevator ride instead of a 40 mile drive, I had plenty of time to go to the gym, no excuses.  Except for the first two days of having difficulty walking because my legs were so sore, I was happy to start this routine again.

So now back at the homestead.  I took a nice stroll through the farm with my camera to check things out and just enjoy the morning air.  So some happenings:

Tangerines:

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This may not seem that exciting, but to me it is.  All along my drive to work and through Hilo town I see houses with mature tangerine trees that are just LOADED.  They have so many tangerines they don’t know what to do with them.  But alas ours at home have none or very few every year.  We have two trees.  Well this is the year, we’re going to get tangerines!  Lots of tangerines.  I’m so excited to finally have them.  Not sure what it can be attributed to, but we are definitely seeing more bees than we have in awhile so I’m sure that’s part of it.

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I stumbled across this gorgeous little bird’s nest in our soursop tree.  It was high up, so it was hard to get the shot in focus, and although I didn’t capture the whole thing, I liked the way this photo came out.  This bird did a lot of work on her little home.

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I fed the ducks, geese, geese and chickens.  For the most part the birds all get along.  I love the variety.

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I picked some black raspberries for breakfast.  We’ve got a bunch right now.  I can always get my husband to pick these with the promise of fresh scones.  This is a thorny little plant, but the berries are worth a poke now and then.

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Our red bananas finally have a bunch.  I’ve never had them before, but I believe they’re more of a cooking banana.  More on those once they’re ripe.

We have a pumpkin vine starting again, which will be nice for the holidays.  We have lots of guava, so I’ll probably be making some more jelly soon.  The new coffee plants my husband planted in our new coffee field are growing so well.  The dragon fruit season is winding down.  We still have quite a few, but not a ton for selling.  The starfruit is loaded as is the breadfruit.  I ended up bringing about 60 breadfruit into my office to give away.  I didn’t realize there were so many breadfruit lovers.  It is a versatile fruit.  In addition to the tangerines, our other citrus are doing well, and we should have a number of different types of oranges this year.

Today is just touching base and putting things away from two weeks of travel.  Tomorrow, coffee bean picking … maybe some black raspberries scones first!

 

 

Garden recap

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We spent last weekend in Honolulu with family.  The minute we got home, my husband was in the garden- feeding animals, checking on plants, watering, etc.  He didn’t even take his luggage out of the car.  It’s been a very warm summer which just zaps any energy and I find it hard to do anything in the garden without wanting to take a nap 5 minutes in.  This weekend, was similar.  I have a business trip that I left for Sunday afternoon, so Saturday I spent picking coffee and doing household chores.  As you know, we’ve made the decision to do all our all coffee producing.  We’ve purchased all the major equipment, and my husband has been working on one final project – a room to dry coffee.  We currently have a large three tier dry box where we dry our coffee beans.  It works quite well, but in inclement weather there are some issues.  Recently we visited some friends who have a “dry room”.  That room was HOT.  It would dry coffee a lot quicker than our current system.  So we decided to build our own – well my husband decided to build his own.  I was called in to hold two beams in place, but the rest of the work is his.  He’s poured the cement and framed it.  It will be on a much smaller basis than our friends, but it will serve us well.  I’m curious to see what will be done when I get back.

 

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I went right back to work after last weekend was over, but my husband had the week off and went fishing with our son.  I came Tuesday to the feast above.  Three kinds of seared fish and two sashimi with fresh avocado.  It was kawakawa, ono (my favorite, it’s the white one), and rainbow runner.

But now I’m in Honolulu for the week.  Here’s the view:

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It’s actually a way better view than it appears, however, I’m scared of heights and was afraid I’d drop my phone over the edge if I got too close!  You can actually see the sand and people in the water, but again, I was too scared to take that picture.

 

Home away from home 

We are spending the weekend away with family on Oahu. Our son is taking care of the farm. Couldn’t help myself but had to make some guava jelly while we are here. Isn’t that what everyone does in vacation. I brought some jars with me because last time we were here I couldn’t find canning jars anywhere. We must’ve gone to four stores before someone found an old case all dusty in some back shelf somewhere. Then store clerk asked what I was going to do with the jars. She looked at me like I was from another planet when I told her I was going to make jelly!!  

Dragon Fruit & Coffee

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What a difference a day makes.  Yesterday we had a few people come over to visit and  pick some fruit in the farm.  While there were certainly dragonfruit available for them to pick, it did NOT look like this yesterday.  We’re in the process of picking and will selling to one of the CSA’s we work with in Hilo.

The dragon fruit on the lower limbs get eaten by the chickens.  As you can see from the picture, some of them are just the right height for them.  Needless to say they love it too.

We also picked some coffee today.  Not a lot, but more than last week.  It never fails in the beginning of the season, I’m super into the picking process.  It’s exciting, I know that we’ll have a lot of our own coffee, and it’s a walking or rather “picking” meditation in a way.  I really get into it.  Sadly, I now this feeling will change.  Picking coffee for a half hour is different than picking coffee all morning.  My husband and I will pick about a 5 gallon bucket each during season.  Today we picked about a quarter bucket together.  We also roasted 4 pounds of coffee in our new roaster today.  The beans aren’t from our farm, it’s what we’ve been using to help season the roaster.  I LOVE the machine.  I know it’s just a roaster, but this is going to serve us quite well.

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The finished product.  It’s been a busy weekend on the farm.

Chickens

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We recently bought four new chickens.  They’re not quite full grown, but should be laying in the near future.  Two of the chickens are Polish.  I’ve never heard of Polish chickens before and even though they apparently aren’t the best layers I insisted on getting them because 1) I’m part Polish!! and 2) they’re a little different looking than the normal chicken.  They have have what looks like hair on top their heads.  IMG_1023.JPG

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Above are pictures of the all the chickens we got.  The all black one is Polish, and the black and red one at the top is a Polish one as well.  We’re keeping them separated from the rest of the flock for a few weeks so they can get a little bigger and get used to the place.

We’ve got a lot of fruit ripening right now – dragon fruit, pineapples, mangoes, starfruit (we’re loaded!), bananas, berries, and lemons.  We’ll be selling some of the dragon fruit and starfruit shortly.  I’m going to try making limoncello again with our lemons.  We have the perfect lemons for this, Meyer lemons, but last time I made it, I think there was too much pith in the rind still and it just did’t taste that good.  So this time I’ll take it slower, and see how it comes out.  I’ll keep you posted as to my efforts on that one. IMG_1017.JPG

Fruit salad from the farm.