Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Kona Coffee

Here I am in Hawaii, eating mango, papaya, and macadamia nuts, and drinking coffee as part of a 100 mile diet.

Monday we toured Greenwell Farms. Kona's oldest coffee farm was established in 1850. 

Some of the trees producing coffee here are 117 years old. While these trees don't produce a lot of fruit, the flavour of the bean is deep and complex, and used to make Onouli coffee. We sampled Peaberry, Full City Roast, Espresso, Jenny K, and Autumn Harvest. A full range of tastes and bodies. Coffee heaven!

As we were driving around the countryside, we saw lots of coffee trees. In addition to growing beans, Greenwell buys from the many independent growers in Kona. 

Beans are harvested August to November, and must be picked by hand, because each bean ripens at a different rate. Then they are inspected for beetles and if there is too much damage, are discarded. On average, a tree will produce 2 - 3 pounds of coffee in a year - and that's before drying. It's a very labour intensive, time-consuming business, which is part of the reason why Kona coffee is so expensive. To order this coffee and have it shipped home would be more than $100 a pound, so when we left with 12 ounces of Jenny K we felt we were leaving with treasure.

Coffee cherries are the new superfood. These are the colourful red casings that have been discarded for years by the industry. Now they've been discovered as a powerful anti-oxidant. The latest superfood is touted to to boost the immune system, protect against free radicals and act as an anti-inflammatory. So within a few days of receiving the bean, Greenwell farms now preserves the fruit and uses it to create a wellness drink called Kona Red.

Coffee beans dry in the sun and are turned so effects are even. At peak harvest, because there are enough beans to fill them, drums are used. Tasters can't tell the difference but the romantic in me will imagine kona coffee sun-dried, always. Once thoroughly dried, beans are roasted.

There is so much difference between coffee beans, which is in part terroir, but also the roasting. Flavour is so much different for the same bean, when roasted to light, medium or dark. Even then, the temperature at which they are roasted and the length of time make a difference. A hotter temperature means the bean will pop that much faster, but sometimes to achieve the proper effect you want to take a bit longer to pull the full flavour from the bean.

Sipping the Jenny K now, and really appreciating the depth of the taste and incredible finish. I would pack my suitcase with it, but roasted beans last only 4-6 weeks. Greenwell sells their green beans in 100 pound bags, so maybe we could get enough people together to make a purchase...

Monday, January 23, 2017

South Kona

Our first day in South Kona we visited Pebble Beach, its black sand making the water and sky so much more blue, with frothy surf foaming as it broke on the beach. So calming to feel the pulse of the ocean and a gentle breeze.


Hawaiian Islands are younger than earth's continents and haven't been populated long, but have such fascinating stories.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park has preserved a great wall Hawaiians built from lava rock 400 years ago to protect their sacred space, with wooden totems honouring the gods; and fishponds to feed the king and kahunas.

In Kealakekua Bay State Historic Park we stood beside the remnants of a Hawaiian village and looked over to a monument honouring Captain Cook; in this place worlds collided with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1779.

The place we're staying has a sunset view of the ocean and a morning space for yoga and meditation.

During the day we can watch birds and butterflies, at night we are wakened by roosters crowing and coqui frog contests. Cute little geckos hang out on the lanai and in the shower. Not so cute is the scat the rodents leave. The first morning half a papaya was gone from the fruit bowl, so now everything gets stored in the fridge.

Papaya, passion fruit, mango and banana trees grow on the property. This morning we enjoyed fresh passion fruit grown outside our door for breakfast.

New Job New Year

The first day back to work in the new year, I started a secondment working on interministerial business.

My new colleagues are supportive and friendly, and I’m using skills I enjoy (writing, connecting, planning, organizing, and strategizing). The work location is great, and my office is comfortable and bright. I hung a photo mobile from the ceiling with pictures of sailing, and it moves softly overhead, so when I feel stressed I can take a moment to pause and imagine myself on the water.

Transitions are always demanding, but this one especially so. The first three weeks included a quarterly executive and regional meeting with travel to Kingston; a regional election to coordinate; and a major conference to organize. All the while doing the administrative work of setting up generic mailboxes, transferring communications devices, getting trained in new software, etc. etc. etc.

I'd previously booked my three week vacation to Hawaii, so I was working doubly hard to finish up work and also make sure everything was in order for the trip. The day before the plane would leave to Hawaii, we'd be holding the big conference.

The theme was public sector renewal and leadership engagement. In addition to the in-person attendees, we worked with a team to webcast the event to another 90 locations and record it for digital archives. Since returning to the public service I’ve attended many inspiring events in the Ontario room, an impressive space reserved for larger groups of two hundred, and that's where our event would be held. On the way out we did a quick poll to take the pulse of attendees, and the responses confirmed people were leaving feeling inspired.  

The night before, it was a great feeling to look around the room and realize I'd played a major role in getting things ready. When the event was over, I definitely felt lighter walking out the door.

After the first whirlwind 3 weeks, I’m now off on a whirlwind three week vacation to that I booked months before.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Full Wolf Moon - Jan 2017

The moon woke me up this morning at 5 a.m., it was blazing bright through the skylight. I watched it for at least 20 minutes through the bare branches of the trees. Clouds came and went and the light muted or popped, dancing against the tree silhouettes.

My mind has been racing lately, what with starting a new job and getting up to speed and entering at a very busy time, with long days and longer to do lists. When I was first awakened I closed my eyes tighter and tried to get back to sleep, but then thought, why not take advantage of this stillness and just drink in the moment. Following the advice of the poet Roethke, I wake to sleep, but take my waking slow...

The moon is officially full this morning at 6:43 am.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Friday night

Yesterday I left work and dropped by both the ROM and AGO before heading over to the Rex for a set, and then enjoyed a cocktail at Note Bene.

What a great way to end the first work week of the year.

I was determined take in some more colour therapy before Chihuly left town, so after work bussed down the street to the museum. This was my fourth visit to the Persian Ceiling, where I took advantage of the beanbags on the floor to lie down and look up for a full twenty minutes, trying to absorb the brilliant hues.

Persian Ceiling

I had a half hour to kill before meeting up with friends at the Rex, so decided to drop into the AGO for a quick peek at the Mystical Landscapes. My 6th time to this exhibit. Each time, I I gaze at the Van Gogh's and Carr's and Jansonn's and find that something new catches my eye, and I wonder how I could possibly have missed it before.

Then on to the Rex Hotel. When I walked in to the crowded room there were no seats anywhere, but there were some friendly faces from BPYC at a table right next to the door. Ross and Cheryl pointed me to Rob standing by the bar. Our timing was perfect as the set was just ending, so we ended up snagging the entire table, right at the front. Our party of 6 was able to join Ross and Cheryl for the best seats in the house!

The band was the Jive Bombers: 6 horns up front with bass, drums and piano behind, accompanied by a female singer with a big, growly voice. Great tunes.

Liz, Darcy, Barb, Colin, Rob and I then went next door to Note Bene. Aviator gin made a nice martini, with hints of lavender and cardamon. Perfect way to end the night.

I love Toronto!