What Happened to Maui Moka
Posted July 14, 2002 12:20pm
Ed Needham, a fellow home roaster, recently visited the Kaanapali Estate on Maui, in Hawaii, spent some time with James Falconer, the Vice President of the Estate and currently the caretaker of the "remains" of the farm. It's pretty much gone to seed, with a lot of weed growth and even though the trees are still producing cherries at enormous rates, no one is cropping the beans.
You can read Ed's article here.
There's good news, and bad news, and it's all summed up in this quote from Ed's story:
"According to Falconer, a pending deal to save the trees and bring them back to their full production state is in the works with Kauai Coffee Company, and 'pretty much a done deal, except for the lawyers'. The 'deal' consists of Kauai leasing the property with the Red, Yellow and Typica trees, but there was no interest in the tiny 'Maui Moka' bean. Falconer said it was a problematic bean... the exceptionally tiny beans that it produced. Falconer said it was so small it affected the overall weight of the harvest, and was not compatible with standard commercial roasting equipment..."
Yes, Maui Moka is a tiny bean, the smallest you will probably ever see from a fully ripe coffee cherry. But it is also one of the most intensely chocolate beans I've ever tried to this day.
And I think that Kauai and Kaanapali are missing something here... a marketing opportunity. The bean is so small that it precludes selling to commercial roasters. That's true and fine, but it doesn't preclude selling the beans to home roasters, or to fluid air roasters such as those using the Sivitz system, or the Syd and Jerry roaster.
I have no idea on how much crop is produced of the Maui Moka, but with the recent upswing in green bean sellers online targetting the home roasting market, and the rep (deserved) that this bean has, I am sure that the home roasting market alone in the US could handle as much as 15 or more commercial bags of this stuff easily. That's some 4500 lbs of processed green coffee. Add the other speciality roasters that use air roasters, and I'm going to make a guess that the market could sustain at leas 5,000 lbs of the Moka bean a year.
The trick is marketing. Donn Soares from Kauai is by all accounts a marketing genius, and he could easily work up a feeding frenzy for the home roasting squad, and for businesses that supply home roasters.
Next year there could very well be a good contingent of "eMembers" at the SCAA conference, and that would be the ideal time for Donn to step in and go on a marketing blitz. Hell, I'd even give Kauai free space on CoffeeGeek to promote the reintroduction of the bean if it meant saving the Maui Moka bean.
I guess the thing that worries me the most about all of this situation is this. The Maui Moka bean, for all its warts and problems (almost all stemming from the tiny size, but also the weird crop behaviour) is a unique bean out there that, if at all possible, should not be lost. I hope that the Kauai people realise this, and set aside at least a few acres of the land for continuing growth and harvesting of the bean.
In my last cafe talk article, I talked about a company called Zoxx in Europe, a company that sold Illy cups and other cups you can't usually get over on these shores.
Well, my shipment arrived! The No Water No Coffee cups are excellent, and well suited for a person like me, since they have a "web theme" running through the design. On the front of this site, I'll be featuring a few of those cups down the road. They are sooooooo cool.
The other cup I ordered were two handleless cups, Koziol Aroma cups. These are very nifty as well. The porcelain is thick enough, and the cups are very wide and squat. They work well, and I may order others. I'm not crazy about the green I chose (suggestion to Zoxx - have a picture of all the colour choices on the order page), but it isn't too bad.
Zoxx also included two Illy "water" glasses, which are ideal for something I like to do when sampling espresso from different blends and bean types. It holds about 2 or 3 oz of Perrier water! If I recall correctly, Cuban Coffee is served with water as well, and it makes a nice addition and "finish" to the act of serving espresso.