Category: Fall 2013

Tamales: Make Them At Home With Friends & Family

Photography and styling by Adriana Torres Chong
Shot on location at Cookspace Hawaii

Many of us give food as gifts over the holidays. Instead of cookies again, consider something heartier, nourishing, and filled with love: tamales. The masa dough and fillings, wrapped like little gifts themselves, are a custom dating back generations, a ritual of of gathering in the kitchen to make a cherished food eaten and shared throughout the holidays.

O‘ahu chef Adriana Torres Chong, originally from Mexico, adapted her traditional recipe to create an authentic pork tamale using local ingredients. As is often the case, there are as many tamale recipes as there are cooks to make them: sweet, savory, vegetarian, etc. If tamale-making is new to you, here is a step-by-step guide to a new tradition you can bring to your own home.

Inspired to learn more? Catch Adriana’s class, “Mexican Tamales from Start to Finish,” at Cookspace Hawaii on Saturday, October 26. Register at

View the Recipe for Local Pork Tamales With Big Wave Green Tomato Salsa


Cronut Recipe by Chef Lee Anne Wong



Photos by Monica Schwartz
“Dominique Ansel is one of the best pastry chefs I have ever known and I visit his patisserie in Soho often for my sugar fix. He is singlehandedly responsible for the half-croissant, half-doughnut ‘Cronut’ craze that has taken the world by storm. If you can’t get to NYC and wait in line for two hours for this pastry delight, here’s a quick cheat; not quite the same, but equally decadent.” – Chef Lee Anne Wong
Course: Dessert
Servings: 4 Pieces
Author: Lee Anne Wong


  • Rolling Pin
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Electric or Stand Mixer
  • 3-inch Biscuit Cutter
  • 1/2-inch Biscuit Cutter


  • 1 Roll of Refrigerated Croissant Dough
  • 1 Cup Melted Butter (Unsalted)
  • Local Hawaiian Cane Sugar (Large Granules)
  • Vegetable Oil (For Frying)
  • 1 Pint of Kula Strawberries (Washed, Hulled, and Thinly Sliced)
  • 1/4 Cup Hawaiian Cane Sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 Cans of Full-Fat Coconut Milk (Refrigerated Overnight)
  • 1 Piece of Hawaiian Vanilla Bean (Cut Lengthwise, Seeds Scraped From Each Half)
  • 2-3 Tbs. Local Honey
  • Hawaiian Sea Salt (To Taste)
  • Toasted Coconut (For Garnish)


Prepare Dough.

  • Working on a lightly oiled surface, unroll the croissant dough and gently shape it into a long rectangle with a rolling pin, about 15”x8”.
  • Rotate the dough so the longer side is parallel to the edge of the table. Brush dough with a thin layer of melted butter and sprinkle lightly with cane sugar. 
  • Visually divide the dough into thirds. Fold in the left side. Brush the top of the folded section with butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with the right side. 
  • The dough should be tightly folded in thirds now. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 min.
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently roll out again to a 15”x8” rectangle. Repeat the process two more times, refrigerating the dough in-between and after the last folding.

Prepare Coconut Cream.

  • While the dough is chilling, remove the cans of coconut milk from the fridge, flip, and open upside down. Pour off the thin coconut milk into a container and reserve it for future use.
  • Pour off the thin coconut milk into a container and reserve it for future use. Scoop the coconut cream into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric or stand mixer, whip the coconut cream until thick and fluffy with medium peaks, about 4-6 minutes. 
  • Stir in half of the vanilla seeds, honey, and a pinch of salt. Refrigerate until needed.

Prepare Strawberry Topping.

  • Place the sliced strawberries in a bowl with the ¼ C. of sugar, lemon juice, and the remaining vanilla seeds.
  •  Stir until well combined. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Shape and Fry Dough.

  • Preheat the deep fry oil to 340°F. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll into a 6”x6” square.
  • Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter, cut out 4 rounds. Cut out center holes with a ½-inch biscuit cutter. 
  • Deep fry the cronuts turning, about 2-3 minutes per side until the dough is golden and evenly cooked. Drain on paper towels.
  • Roll in cane sugar while still hot.


  • While the cronuts are still warm, whip the coconut cream back to medium peaks. Spoon onto plate and into each cronut hole.
  • Top with the macerated strawberries and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
  • Eat immediately and with gusto!

Roasted Beans and Broccoli and Szechuan Peppercorn Yogurt



Photos by Monica Schwartz
Green veggies are part of my daily diet and broccoli is an old favorite (it was the first thing I ever learned to cook for myself.). For an even healthier take on this recipe, simply serve the vegetables steamed or blanched with the yogurt dressing.” – Chef Lee Anne Wong
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Servings: 4 People
Author: Lee Anne Wong


  • 8” Fry Pan
  • Heatproof Container(i.e. Mason jar)
  • Fine Mesh Sieve
  • Large Pot
  • Large Bowl
  • Small Bowl
  • Whisk
  • Parchment Paper
  • Sheet Tray


Roasted Beans and Broccoli

  • 1/4 Cup Garlic Cloves (Thinly Sliced On The Mandolin 1/16”)
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 lb. Green, Romano, Or Yellow Wax Beans (Ends Trimmed)
  • 1 lb. Broccoli Florets And Stems (Trimmed To 2” Pieces)
  • 1 Tbs. Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbs. Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbs. Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Cane Sugar
  • Hawaiian Sea Salt (Fine Ground)

Sesame Yogurt

  • 2 tsp. Sesame Seeds
  • 1 Cup Lowfat Greek Yogurt
  • Zest of 1/2 Lime
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime
  • Pinch of Hawaiian Sea Salt (Fine Ground)
  • 1 tsp. Local Honey


Prepare Garlic Oil.

  • Heat oil in an 8” fry pan, add sliced garlic.
  • Stir occasionally over medium heat. When the garlic chips begin to turn light golden brown, strain them out to paper towels, spreading them out (they will harden as they cool).
  • Season lightly with sea salt. Allow the garlic oil to cool to room temperature and reserve. 
  • Strain the garlic oil through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof container, such as a mason jar.

Prepare Beans And Broccoli.

  • Preheat the oven to 450°F. 
  • Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil (It should taste like ocean water).
  • Blanch the green beans separately for two minutes, drain on paper towels. Dry thoroughly and transfer to a large bowl, still hot.
  • Return water to a boil. Repeat the process, blanching the broccoli for 1 minute. Add to the beans.

Prepare And Add Vinaigrette.

  • In a small bowl whisk together 2 Tbs. of garlic oil with the sesame oil, soy sauce, balsamic, and sugar. 
  • Toss the hot vegetables in the vinaigrette and season lightly with salt.
  •  Spread into a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet tray and place in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until the vegetables begin to caramelize.

Prepare Sesame Yogurt.

  • Combine all yogurt ingredients in a small bowl, stir until blended. Keep refrigerated. For more kick, substitute sesame seeds with Szechuan peppercorns.


  • Serve vegetables warm with sesame yogurt and top with garlic chips.

Get Fresh: Produce Boxes Across Hawai‘i

Boxes full of fresh, seasonal produce direct from your local farms are available across Hawai‘i. While some subscription services act as brokers, and others are traditional CSAs (short for Community-Supported Agriculture, in which you are technically purchasing a harvest share from a certain farm) the benefits to you are the same—the freshest, 100 percent local ingredients to your table at a great value, all while showing direct support to your local growers. This is also a great gift idea!

Things to consider: Check on the volume, or amount of produce, the box will come with to ensure it meets your needs. If organic is a priority, be sure your box is certified. All boxes are not confined to produce; ask whether you can include items like flowers, honey, eggs, bread, or jams and syrups. Another important detail is whether there is a delivery or if you’ll have to pick up the boxes yourself.

Boxes are available from dozens of sources; depending on which island you are on, here are a few good places to start:

Hawai‘i Island is so vast—and fertile! Hawaii Homegrown Food Network keeps a thorough island-wide listing of the dozens of CSAs available. Visit their website and look in their Resources tab for full listing.

Kula Fields Farmshop services Maui, O‘ahu, and Lāna‘i with home delivery of a variety of different produce boxes and specialty items. Visit for more information.

MA‘O Organic Farm’s traditional CSA box also helps support their socially-driven farming projects. O‘ahu Fresh brokers produce and specialty items from island farmers with delivery and pick-up available.

Kauai Farm Connection is a consortium of organic farmers that offers a subscription produce box; pick-up available in Kilauea and Kapa‘a.

Osechi Ryori: The Cuisine of Japanese New Year

Story by Jon Letman

Next to life itself, food is the greatest gift. To share food is to extend another’s life, to celebrate bounty and to perpetuate culture. One could argue that the Japanese, as much as anyone, exhibit their culture and values though food. The presentation of a dish—its color, form, flavor, texture, geometric shape, temperature and the number of and order in which it is served—imparts Japanese core values: simplicity, harmony and balance.

Never is this more true than for Japanese New Year’s cuisine: osechi ryori (literally ‘honorable season’). Abbreviated here as “osechi,” this highly structured and meticulously prepared culinary heritage, rich in symbolism, is the ultimate expression of Japanese culinary arts.

Making osechi is no simple task. Typically made by the women of the house, osechi can easily surpass two dozen elaborate dishes that must be prepared in addition to the tasks of cleaning house, year-end gift giving, writing and sending many dozens (even hundreds) of New Years greeting cards and buying year-end provisions like sake, flowers and kadomatsu decorations.

Osechi RyoriBeginning New Year’s Day, osechi is served to family, friends and guests and meant to be the sole source of food during the three-day Oshougatsu (Japanese New Year) period. Because Japanese winters are cold and even today many homes are only heated on a room-by-room basis, it’s easy to find a part of the house cold enough to keep the prepared dishes chilled without ‘over-chilling’ them in a refrigerator.

Living off osechi during Oshougatsu relieves the family’s chief meal preparer of cooking duties for three days, but today many Japanese families enjoy a scaled back version of osechi and, by the second day, may be eating take-out Chinese, sushi or even fast food.

Deep roots

Osechi’s roots go back at least 1,200 years and possibly much further. As the first food eaten in the new year, osechi symbolizes life’s greatest aspirations: health, fertility, prosperity, success and diligence. Three of the most commonly used ingredients—kazunoko (brined herring roe), kuromame (black beans) and tazukuri (baby sardines),—symbolize many children, health and success, respectively.

Osechi RyoriOther ingredients, whether eel, crab and red snapper rolled as sushi, lily root folded in the shape of a white plum blossom, konbu seaweed ‘ribbons’ or pink and white kamaboko (fish cake) cut to resemble flower petals, all have auspicious associations.

Typically osechi is served in three-tiered decorative boxes called jubako. These lacqueraware boxes are usually black, gold or vermilion and emblazoned with images of bamboo, pine branches or plum blossoms.

For many people today, making osechi is just too much work. In Hawai‘i, instead of spending days preparing several dozen dishes, it’s far more common to begin New Year’s day with ozoni soup, mochi, a sip of sake and simpler preparations of nishime stew and giant prawns.

Like osechi, these dishes require ingredients that may be available only in December. To meet year-end demand, local Hawai‘i farmers and produce wholesalers plan months in advance to grow, ship and distribute vegetables like mizuna, a Japanese mustard green (Brassica juncea var. japonica), gobo (burdock root) and araimo—locally called dasheen—a miniature form of taro.

Earl Kashiwagi, general manager for Esaki’s Produce on Kaua‘i sources mizuna and gobou from multiple islands because “you never know which island is going to have a weather problem.” He has to commit to buy the vegetables in June to ensure delivery in time for the five or six-day sale window at the end of the year.

And even though Esaki’s is a wholesale distributor, every year Kashiwagi sees individual customers come to him directly, desperate for an ingredient their local grocer doesn’t have.

“They walk in, even on New Years Eve and say, ‘Uncle, you got any mizuna inside your ice box?”

December also sees higher demand for daikon radishes, renkon (lotus root) and carrots. Kashiwagi can still get these vegetables locally, but says others are growing scarce with each passing year.

“It’s becoming a challenge every year to get all of these things because there are not too many Japanese farmers left who follow the traditions,” Kashiwagi says.

The greatest gift

One Honolulu-based chef who still prepares osechi annually is Shuji Abe, owner of Takumi Catering & Planning on Kapiolani Boulevard. He begins planning his coming New Year’s menu 12 months out.

In addition to fish and seafood associated with celebrations (red snapper, spiny lobster, herring and salmon roe), osechi relies heavily on root vegetables. Unlike the locally grown daikon, renkon and gobou, Abe must import kuwai (arrowhead root) and kintoki ninjin, a sweet red carrot. As much as 60 percent of the ingredients he needs aren’t available in Hawai‘i.

As families become more diffuse and long-held traditions fall victim to changing habits, the old custom of multi-generations dedicating two or more full days to making osechi has declined. For Abe too, societal changes have led him to produce simpler menus. In the last decade, however, he has observed a renewed interest in the more elaborately prepared osechi dishes.

Abe, who has lived in Hawai‘i since 1981, says the basic techniques employed in osechi— the cutting, boiling, peeling, sculpting— are used in other dishes throughout the year. Thus, he contends, a Japanese chef is preparing for osechi all year long, whether they actually make it or not.

With dishes as time-consuming as they are, Abe doesn’t make osechi for the masses. Working alone, he plans his menu one year in advance and by the end of December is singularly focused on the year’s culminating preparation with some of the more complex dishes requiring over a week to fully complete.

When his work is finished, Abe wraps the three-tiered jubako in a furoshiki (ornamental kerchief) and delivers it to his most prized clients with whom he has a special relationship. In most years, he’ll prepare osechi for not more than four or five parties meaning all this work is for the pleasure of no more than 20 people.

To successfully plan and execute a three-day meal in which each dish is ready for presentation and delivery within a few hours of all the others on the final day of the year requires remarkable commitment and coordination.

Ultimately, Abe says his months of planning and days of cooking for the pleasure of just a few are his way of keeping Japanese culture alive, even far from home. Abe says he does it for himself too, and to share his love of Japanese food in a way that expresses his heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

Osechi Ryori

Hawai‘i Coffee-rubbed Pork Loin with Sautéed Mushrooms, Red Plum Port Wine Sauce and Shaved Fennel



A holiday main.
If turkey is feeling too tired for your holiday table, try this alternative offered by EATHonolulu’s Chef David Passanisi. This luscious main features local farm-raised pork, perfectly showcased with Hawai‘i grown ingredients—many featured here in the pages of this magazine.
“This rub adds texture and a seasoned depth without overpowering the natural flavor of the pork. We work with fresh, local vegetables on a regular basis. We like produce-based sauces for their better intensity of flavor and great texture. What’s better, they keep your cooking healthier by skipping the butter and cream,” says Chef David.
Get tips directly from the pro himself: stop by EATHonolulu in the Gentry Design Center and ask for Chef David.
Happy Cooking!
Course: Main Course
Author: David Passanisi


  • Pan
  • Saucepan


Pork Loin

  • 30 oz. Center-Cut Pork Loin
  • 1 Bulb Fennel (Shaved)
  • Hawaiian Sea Salt

Coffee Rub

  • 4 Tbs. Fine Ground Hawai'i Coffee
  • 2 Tbs. Dark Cacao Powder
  • 1 Tbs. Coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. Clove
  • 1 tsp. Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp. Big Island Cinnamon
  • Hawaiian Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper (To Taste)


  • 6 oz. Mixed Hamakua Mushrooms (Ali‘i, Piopini, And Grey Oyster)
  • 1 Drop of Matsutake Extract
  • 2 Tbs. Chicken Stock
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • 1/2 tsp. Chive
  • Salt And Pepper (To Taste)

Red Plum Port Sauce

  • 4 Red Plums (Sliced In Wedges)
  • 1 Shallot (Sliced)
  • 1/2 Thumb Hawaiian Ginger Root (Sliced)
  • 2 Cups Port Wine
  • 2 Tbs. Local Honey
  • 1 tsp. Local Lemon Juice


Prepare Coffee Rub.

  • Mix all ingredients for the coffee rub together.

Prepare Pork Loin.

  • Rub pork loin liberally with the coffee rub. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Pan sear on high until brown and roast in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 145-degrees. Remove from oven and rest 15 minutes.

Prepare Mushrooms.

  • Warm pan with butter and sauté mushrooms on medium-high heat for 1 minute.
  •  Deglaze pan with chicken stock and matsutake extract.
  • Bring to boil and whisk in remaining butter and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prepare Red Plum Port Sauce

  • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until incorporated, about 10-20 minutes.
  • Chill, then blend until smooth.


  • Plate pork loin with mushrooms and plum sauce, top with shaved fennel tossed in sea salt.
  • Enjoy!

Pork Tamales with Big Wave Green Tomato Salsa

Local Pork Tamale Recipe with Big Wave Green Tomato Salsa

Photography, Styling, and Recipe by Adriana Torres Chong
Shot on location at Cookspace Hawai‘i

Gather friends and family for “tamalada,” a tamale-making party, and prepare for a hands-on day in the kitchen. This great tamale recipe makes about 16 tamales; multiply as needed.


Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: pork, salsa, tamale
Servings: 16 People
Author: Adriana Torres Chong


  • Saucepan
  • Blender
  • Pressure Cooker
  • Bowl
  • Pot
  • Steamer Rack


Green Salsa

  • 1 lb. Big Wave Green Tomatoes (~2 Large Tomatoes)
  • 1/4 Maui Onion
  • 1-2 Serrano Chilies (To Taste)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 Cilantro Sprigs
  • Hawaiian Salt and Black Pepper (To Taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. Sugar

Pork Filling

  • 2 lbs. Local Pork Shoulder
  • 1/2 Maui Onion
  • 1/2 tsp. Hawaiian Salt
  • 1 tsp. Mexican Oregano


  • 4 Cups Masa Mix
  • 5 Cups Reserved Pork Broth (More If Needed)
  • 4 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp. Salt
  • 2/3 Cup Lard
  • 2/3 Cup Vegetable Shortening
  • 16-20 Corn Husks (Soaked In Warm Water For 30 Minutes)


Assemble ingredients and soak corn husks in warm water for 30 minutes.

  • Tamale Recipe - Assemble all Ingredients

Prepare salsa verde.

  • Add the tomatoes, onion, serrano chilies, garlic, and cilantro to a saucepan and add enough water to cover (2-3 cups). Cook over medium heat, covered, until tomatoes soften, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, puree. Season with salt, pepper, and sugar.
    Tamales Recipe - Prepare Salsa Verde

Prepare pork.

  • Add pork shoulder, onion, Hawaiian salt, and Mexican oregano in a pressure cooker, cover with water and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Remove pork and shred; reserve broth for masa.

Prepare Masa.

  • Combine masa mix, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the pork broth, working with hands to form a soft dough. In a separate bowl, whisk lard and shortening until fluffy. Incorporate masa into the lard mix, whisk until dough has a spongy texture. Can be done by hand or using a mixer. Test by dropping a small ball of masa into a glass of water; if it floats, it’s ready.

Assemble tamales.

  • Spread 3 Tbs.of dough evenly over soaked corn husks. Fill the center with 1 Tbs. of cooked pork and ½ Tbs. of salsa verde. Fold the sides of the husks in toward the center, tying the ends if needed.


  • Line a steamer rack with a double layer of corn husks and place tamales vertically within it. Drape with a towel, then cover with lid. Steam for 50-60 minutes or until the dough peels easily from the husk. Tip: Add an inch of water to the pot and place a washed penny in the middle. The penny will rattle as the dish simmers; when rattling slows, it’s time to add more boiling water to the pot.


  • Serve warm with salsa verde. Tamales freeze well, so make quantities ahead. Buen Provecho!


O‘ahu chef Adriana Torres Chong, originally from Mexico, adapted her traditional recipe to create an authentic pork tamale using local ingredients. As is often the case, there are as many tamale recipes as there are cooks to make them: sweet, savory, vegetarian, etc. If tamale-making is new to you, here is a step-by-step guide to a new tradition you can bring to your own home.

A Historical Timeline of Coffee in Hawai‘i

Special Downoad: Historical Timeline of Coffee in Hawai‘i Bookmark (print and use!)

1813 – Don Francisco de Paula y Marin records planting coffee on O‘ahu.

1825 – The HMS Blonde sails in Honolulu with 30 coffee plants.

1828 – Coffee is planted in Kona and Hilo on The Big Island of Hawai‘i.

1830s – Coffee initiated as a commercial crop.

1835 – Coffee is planted in Koloa, Kaua‘i.

1849 – Coffee is exported to California during the Gold Rush.

1877 – Lava from Mauna Loa volcano flows through the Kona District.

1882 – Hawai‘i Agricultural Society forms.

1890 – Strong economies in Europe and America results in rise of market prices for coffee, creating a boom for Kona coffee.

1892 – Hermann Widemann introduces a Guatemalan coffee variety to Hawai‘i that is now referred to as “Kona Typica.”

1898 – Japanese coffee farmers establish the Kona Japanese Coffee Producers Association in an effort to improve processing and market a higher value product.

1904 – Judge Copp plants coffee in the Kokomo District of Maui. 125 acres are planted by Honolua Ranch in West Maui.

1904 – Donkeys, known as “Kona Nightingales” are brought in to help with the coffee harvest.

1910 – Japanese coffee farmers make-up 80% of the total farming population in Kona.

1932 – Dept. of Education institutes the “Coffee Vacation” so students can pick coffee during their hiatus from school from August – November.

1944 – Upcountry Maui children trade hand-picked and roasted coffee to the Marines of the Fighting Fourth at Kokomo for cans of Spam.

1956 – Fukunaga and Beaumont publish research from the Kona Experiment Station revolutionizing coffee pruning worldwide.

1957 – 15 million pounds of coffee are produced in Hawai‘i—the peak of production.

1959 – Statehood.

1967 – Kona Pacific Farmer’s Co-Op purchases and converts a former pineapple cannery into a coffee mill.

1969 – “Coffee Vacation” canceled, Kona schools conform with the rest of Hawai‘i.

1970 – Kona Coffee Festival

1980 – Malulani Farm plants 500 acres of Red Catuai coffee on Moloka‘i.

1987 – Kaua‘i Coffee Co. plants 3100 acres of former sugar fields into coffee.

1988 – Pioneer Sugar Mill converts 500 acres to Ka‘anapali Estate Coffee in West Maui.

1994 – The Internet revolution. Coffee farmers are now able to market directly to consumers.

1995 – The Hawai‘i Coffee Association is formed.

1998 – Labeling guidelines law passed for origin certification in Hawai‘i.

2005 – Kona Coffee Council and Maui Coffee Association established.

2010 – Kaua‘i Coffee Co. produces half of the coffee grown in the United States.

2013 – 200th Anniversary of Coffee in Hawai‘i.

History of Coffee in Hawaii

Taking Root: 200 Years of Coffee in Hawai‘i

Story by Margaret Kearns

This year, coffee—one of Hawai‘i’s heritage crops—celebrates its 200th anniversary of taking root in the islands. If not the largest agricultural crop in the State, coffee is among its most romantic, often nuanced with the impassioned sensorial descriptors akin to viniculture. And while conversations over a cup of joe can linger on subtleties of terroir and mouthfeel, Hawai‘i coffee-growers today are navigating the future—and threats—of their $34.6 million per year industry.

According to records, Hawai‘i’s first coffee plant was introduced in 1813 through King Kamehameha I’s Spanish advisor, Don Francisco de Paula y Marin. His royal journal noted planting the seedlings on O‘ahu, though little is known of the fate of that planting. In 1828 missionary Samuel Ruggles brought the first coffee tree to Kona, and by the 1930s coffee had become a commercial product in Hawai‘i—the only state in the nation to successfully cultivate the crop. (For the full historical timeline, check out this post.)

Two centuries later, more than 800 coffee farms operate across the islands. A whopping 700 of these farms are on Hawai‘i Island, most averaging just five acres in size. According to Hawaii Coffee Association’s (HCA) statistics, Hawai‘i Island is at the heart of the multi-million industry, with its ideal growing conditions of rich volcanic soil, climate and elevations of 1,000 to 3,000 feet. Across Hawai‘i, coffee is primarily farmed in the Kona tradition: hand-picked, fermented, and washed.

While Kona coffee continues to be the most renowned, the bean thrives in 11 growing regions across the islands, including areas on O‘ahu, Moloka‘i, Maui, and Kaua‘i. HCA president Greg Stille, a Maui-based grower himself, points out that in recent years, Ka‘u and Hamakua on Hawai‘i Island, as well as coffee farms on other islands, are challenging Kona’s top spot.

Numbers indicate that pouring a mug of Hawaii-grown coffee will continue to be a premium experience. Reports from the annual HCA conference held in July estimate the total coffee crop at 7.2 million pounds, down 5 percent from last year. While planted acreage remained unchanged at 8,000, harvested acreage logged in at 6,100, a 25 percent dip. Despite the decline in yield, the association estimates total coffee farm revenues to be up 10 percent this season.

“The good news/ bad news is demand for our specialty coffee here [in Hawai‘i] and in worldwide markets exceeds availability, resulting in higher prices for our coffee. One of the industry’s biggest challenges is finding more land in ideal coffee growing areas and attracting like-minded individuals committed to sustainably growing and cultivating outstanding quality beans,” Stille says.

Kaanapali Coffee FarmsIn fact, Stille, who together with his wife Susy, owns and operates the two-acre, boutique Piliani Kope Farm above the town of Lahaina on Maui, is personally on the search for more coffee acreage. He’s eyeing four different farms located in Kona, ranging from 12 to 108 acres.

A Mighty Threat

That Stille is even considering property in the Kona region is an indicator that he’s bullish on the success of a collaborative effort to tackle a tiny but dangerous pest. The Coffee Berry Borer (CBB) beetle was discovered on Kona district farms three years ago and has since destroyed up to 80 percent of infested crops, forcing many to stop cultivation. (Remember that 25 percent drop in harvested acres?)

Tom Greenwell, a fourth-generation Kona coffee grower, explains: “Up until 2010, Hawai‘i was just one of two coffee producing regions in the world not affected by the Coffee Borer Beetle—the most destructive of all coffee farm pests. For more than 150 years, growing coffee here had been relatively easy. We’re blessed with ideal conditions, soil, weather and elevation among them. That’s not to say we haven’t had our share of challenges over the years, such as drought, other pests and high labor costs, but nothing as potentially devastating as this.”

While CBB is not the only reason for harvest shortfalls and increased retail pricing (land and labor costs also contribute), it is by far the biggest. Preventing its spread to other growing regions is imperative to the health of Hawai‘i’s coffee industry.

Such grave threat to our nation’s only coffee growers was a wake-up call in Washington DC: this February, $1 million was made available toward the effort to combat the pest thanks to the efforts of U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and grassroots groups like the Kona Coffee Farmers Association and the Coffee Berry Borer Task Force.

Kona Coffee Farmers Association President Cecelia Smith and her husband Bob, both descendants of sugar plantation families, have been cultivating their five-acre Smith Farms Kona coffee for 25 years in Honaunau, the area hardest hit by the borer beetle. As they watched their crop yields decrease by 40 percent while facing increased costs for pesticides, they somberly considered giving up on the business they’d spent over a quarter-century building.

“We’re extremely grateful to the USDA and to Mazie; $1 million is a large amount of money and the best part is it will be used to fund science-based research, that’s exactly what we need—long-term scientific research,” she says. “It’s so much more help than attempting to fight it yourself.”

Beyond Kona

CoH-Molokai red dirtIn the meantime, coffee farms on all five islands are continuing to improve growing methods and processing techniques to bring out the unique flavor profiles found in several distinct coffee varieties— Arabic Typica, Red Caturra, Catuai, Pache, and Bourbon.

Far from the small farms of Hawai‘i Island is Kauai Coffee Company, Hawai‘i’s first and largest commercial coffee orchard. The mammoth 3,100-acre plantation drip-irrigates its 4 million trees (possibly the largest coffee plantation in the world to do so), uses mechanical harvesters, and wet processes their beans using aqua-pulpers for mucilage removal. Kauai Coffee Company alone comprises nearly 40 percent of the 8,000 acres in coffee production in Hawai‘i.

At the other end of the spectrum, and island, are John and Daphne McClure, owners of Moloa‘a Bay Coffee near Hanalei. The couple has been farming award-winning coffee on six acres for over a decade. All of his 3,000 Kona Typica trees are sustainably grown, hand-picked and naturally processed. They do all the demanding work from planting and stumping (pruning trees to their stumps), processing, roasting, packaging, and marketing themselves.

“I do most of the farming, while Daphne handles packaging, marketing and sales,” McClure says. “We bring in a small crew to help during peak harvest times.”

His hands-on approach has not gone unnoticed. For the last three years, Moloa‘a Bay Coffee has claimed first place in their division in HCA’s esteemed annual cupping competition.

On the Friendly Isle, the only source for 100 percent Moloka‘i-grown coffee comes from Coffees of Hawai‘i, the island’s only grower. The the 500-acre estate is planted with the Red Catuai, an Arabica variety, selected for its superior quality and compatibility with local growing conditions. The established orchards are rooted in the vivid red soil on the upper slopes of Kualapu‘u, right in the heart of the island.

And what of that initial recipient of the mighty bean, O‘ahu? While early attempts at cultivation on the south side of the island proved unsuccessful, coffee found a nurturing home on its famed North Shore. Waialua Estate Coffee and Cacao, a division of the Dole Food Company, was founded in the late 1990s on land previously cultivated in sugar and pineapple. At that time, Chairman David Murdock determined that the area’s nutrient-rich volcanic soil, abundant rainfall and plentiful sunshine would produce coffee and cacao to rank “among the world’s best.” Along with extraordinary quality and flavor, Murdock was especially interested in the healthful antioxidant benefits of the two products. To this day, they use beneficial insects for their pest management program, allowing them to grow crops pesticide-free.

Waialua Estate’s 155-acre coffee farm sits above the coastal towns of Haleiwa and Waialua at a 700-foot elevation, while the 20-acre cacao orchard is situated at sea level along the banks of the Kaukonahua River near Waialua town.

For an up-close and personal taste of the rich history and flavors of Hawai‘i grown coffee, don’t miss the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival on Hawai“i Island November 1–10, 2013, or the Ka‘ū Coffee Festival held each spring.

200 Years of Coffee in Hawaii


Scientific name: Tamarindusindica

Tamarind is best described as sweet and sour in taste, and is high in acid, sugar, B vitamins and, oddly for a fruit, calcium.

The tree is very large with long, heavy drooping branches and dense foliage. A fully grown tree might reach up to 80 feet in height. During each season, the tree bears an abundance of irregularly curved pods all along its branches. Each pod has a thick outer shell encasing a mass of deep brown sticky pulp. Inside the pulp are two to 10 hard, dark-brown seeds.

If you can find a tamarind pod in its raw natural state, simply crack the outer shell, pull off the inner string and eat it like you would a date. Or take the pulp, remove the seeds and add them to a sauce for a distinctly sweet and tangy flavor.

For lunch recently, we had fresh fish with tamarind sauce prepared by private chef Tikky Young. We loved the flavors so much that we asked Tikky to share the recipe. (NEED LINK)