Farm to Table: 6 Dishes from Hawaii Restaurants
Here are six locally grown dishes you can order in Hawaii restaurants right now—and the farmers who made them possible.
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It’s raining in Waiono Meadows, as it does almost every afternoon. “We’re blessed with sunny mornings, wet afternoons,” says Malia Bolton. “And with elevation.” Waiono Meadows elevation stretches from 2,200 feet to 3,400 feet above the South Kona coast, with 122 acres of coffee, about 150,000 trees.
Bolton planted the first acres herself, in 1998, she and her then-boyfriend laboring during the summer after their sophomore year in high school.
“We hand-planted 1,000 trees,” she recalls. “Fortunately, I was in Santa Barbara in college when they planted the next 40 acres. My brother and sister had to do it.”
The land belongs to Malia’s parents, but the farm was always intended for Malia and her siblings. “We wanted to keep it in ag. It was perfect for coffee.”
It does seem perfect. Like wine grapes grown high on mountainsides, the coffee at this elevation ripens slowly. Most Kona coffee is picked from September to February. Waiono is still picking ripe coffee cherries in May, June, even July. The sugars and flavors have a chance to develop fully.
“The trees take their time to give us good coffee,” says Bolton. In 2003, a mere five years after the first planting, Waiono Meadows beans won the Gevalia Cupping Competition at the Kona Coffee Festival.
“People said, you’ve got a good product, you should market it,” says Malia. Now 29, she’s transformed herself into the young lioness of Kona coffee.
Under the banner of Kona Coffee & Tea Co., she processes, dries and roasts her own coffee beans, packages and retails them. On the side, she’s marketing director for the Kona Coffee Festival.
Bolton flew to Houston to see Licata compete in the nationals. “I didn’t realize what a big deal this competition was or that Pete was already a star,” she says.
There was also a downside. “When I talked to specialty coffee brokers, I realized Kona had lost a great deal of prestige. They’d say, oh, it’s expensive and uneven.”
That made her more determined. “If we don’t want to lose coffee like we lost sugar and pineapple, we’ve got to keep the Kona name strong. The way to do that is to produce quality coffee. Quality, quality, quality.”