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The neighbors' two small dogs must be rehearsing for something important. One in typical small dog mezzo range, the other with the soprano timbre of


Kope Luau: Chasing Sun, Finding Coffee (and Chickens)

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The neighbors' two small dogs must be rehearsing for something important. One in typical small dog mezzo range, the other with the soprano timbre of a half-eaten squeaky toy, they are perfectly alternating yips with a level of dedication and perseverance that most music teachers can only wish their students would emulate.

I am sitting on the porch in the very last of the sun as it disappears around the corner of my apartment, cup of coffee and bowl of pineapple by my side, contemplating the fact that, while truly annoying, at least they are dogs and not chickens. This may seem like an arbitrary point, but allow me to explain.

As I was on my way to somewhere while writing my last post, I may as well confess that I was off to spend a few sunny days on the island of Kauai. This is the only Hawaiian island I've visited, so I don't know if it's true across the board or just a "Kauai" thing, but there are a lot of chickens. The trip was, ostensibly, my vacation. But the overzealous competition of about 400 wild roosters will wake even the best sleeper with the first hint of sunlight, vacation or not. And since wild roosters in chorus, echoed as they are by droves of hens, sound to someone from the city like a massive protest and/or riot, it's fair to say that I wasn't waking up relaxed in the mornings. More like combat ready. I didn't like chickens to begin with, and I can't say as I like them any more now.

The good news is, since sleeping in was out of the question, there was no reason to avoid drinking coffee. Thus, the first order of business in Kauai was a trip to the Kauai Coffee Company, to actually see coffee trees growing and blooming, to explore some of the (now retired) original washing and drying sites, and to discover that macadamia syrup is the single most amazing thing yet to hit the world of the iced americano.

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Hawaii is best known to coffee drinkers for its production of Kona coffee. But Kona coffee can only be grown within the "Kona" region of the big island, and the other islands and counties actually produce quite a bit of coffee as well. Coffee, while not native to Hawaii, has done extremely well there over the last 120-ish years. The tropical, mountainous environment lends itself well to coffee growing, and although the coffee plants themselves are originally imports from other areas of the world, the unique weather systems and volcanic soil of Hawaii's islands give the distinctly Hawaiian flavor to the product that has put it in high demand.

Considering the legend of Kaldi, the Ethiopian goat herder who discovered coffee after seeing how hyper his goats were when he found them eating the berries off an unusual plant, I have to wonder about the Kauaian chickens. Perhaps Kauai's coffee-friendly environment holds the explanation to Kauai's island-wide pre-dawn rooster reveille. It's almost a pity coffee can't be grown decaf to test whether the island could get more sleep.

Unfortunately, while coffee growing is a big deal on the islands, coffee drinking really isn't, and it can be tricky (not impossible, just tricky) to track down decent local coffee while traveling. I consequently returned to the mainland with a bag of coffee in my luggage (as if I wouldn't have otherwise), and it is that coffee which is now sitting, French pressed, next to me, as I give thanks that my neighbors own annoying dogs instead of annoying poultry. I brought back Kona Coffee, from Lion Coffee Roasters, on the adamant recommendation of some random rock climber I met in southern California. Uncannily dark in flavor for a light/medium roast, smooth, smoky (but not earthy), and strongly tasting of chocolate, I have to say that it's good... but, that it's not amazing. While the flavor is undeniably rich, it isn't especially complex, and after the first couple of tastes there isn't all that much more to puzzle out. Kona Coffee, for all its mystery and hype, is just one more Arabica plant, grown in a different environment by a different grower, subject to the weather, processing, and roasting it endures, the same as all other kinds. Considering the cost-per-pound, I'd actually rather drink a good coffee from El Salvador, or Peru: All the chocolaty goodness, with a stronger element of wilderness, for a lower cost. Even at fair trade prices.

As far as the chickens are concerned, and what bearing they actually have on coffee, I will simply point you to this handy-dandy little blog from our local roaster, Zoka: Coffee for Dinner? 6 Recipes for Your Main Course. Yes, really.

Kauai Chickens

Incidentally, should you be wondering about the title of this article, "kope" is the Hawaiian word for "coffee," and a luau, as you undoubtedly know, is a party or a feast. It does not, contrary to whatever Google's search engine thinks, have anything whatsoever to do with Kopi Luwak. Dear Google: I really thought I would try any kind of coffee. Yet again, you've set me straight. Mahalo.

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