Day 5: The Day We Make Another Notch in the Coffee Belt

Day five starts as usual; we wave a good morning to the latest cruise ship in the bay as we head out from the hotel. Along the way, we stop by Snorkel Bob's to rent snorkel gear in case we get around to doing that. Although we have our own snorkel stuff at home, we figured we'd rent gear here since space in our luggage was at a premium, and we'd look weird wearing it as carry-on during the plane trip over.
We have an early afternoon appointment at UCC, so we spend a few hours cruising lazily down the Kona coast to where we'd stopped the coffee plantation tour on Day 2.

Along the way, we stop by Chris' Bakery, which is listed in several guide books as a good place to buy some malassadas, Portuguese doughnuts that are quite popular in Hawaii. And why shouldn't they be -- malassadas are basically beignets made with Hawaiian sweet bread dough, deep fried, and sprinkled with sugar. What's not to love?!

We'd bought a couple of malassadas at the Hilo farmer's market the day before, and while they were tasty we wanted to try some that were freshly made. It was definitely much higher on the yummometer.

From Chris', we cruise on down to the Surfin' Ass coffee company... or maybe it's the Keoki's Donkey Beans coffee company; we're not really sure which... the burlap sack says Keoki's, but the storefront and the coffee mug we bought both say Surfin' Ass. Either way, the espresso smoothie they make for me is -- while not as strong or as heavenly as the Kona Joe's espresso smoothie -- still mighty tasty indeed. Plus, they have soymilk, so Lucie is able to have her first Kona mocha with vanilla soy, and she gives it a definite thumbs up as well.

From there, we walk across the street to a fabric store where I purchase some cool fabric to have a Hawaiian shirt made (we didn't want to spend time running around trying to find a store that had shirts my size), and I find a Hawaiian print bandanna to add to my do-rag collection (all I need to do now is find a matching shirt.)

We drive a bit further down the highway until we get to Greenwell's coffee plantation and living history museum. They'd recently closed down the gift shop (what?!!), but a lady in frontier clothing informs us that we could drive a mile or so down their private road and buy some coffee there. Frankly, we're both getting a weird sort of vibe from the place, and it's almost time for our UCC tour anyway, so we feel it's probably best if we just moved on.

We arrive at UCC (the Ueshima Coffee Company) on schedule, and our friendly host Seichi-san takes our picture and then brings us into the back room where our prize awaits us -- the chance to roast our own coffee beans!

We use a row of small roasting vats that sort of resembled miniature cement mixers over propane flame. The roasters are from the early 1900's, and are still used today for training purposes so people don't waste a lot of beans if they mess up -- each roaster can hold up to a half pound of beans. While our beans are roasting and tumbling in the spinning barrels, Seichi-san talks to us about the history of the place, about how they "crack-u-late" the beans instead of grinding them (since grinding the beans creates additional heat, which can affect the flavor, they essentially chop them instead), and how we could even roast our own coffee beans at home by using a hot-air based popcorn popper. We also get to enjoy a taste test of their coffee, dark and white chocolate covered coffee beans, and a roasted macadamia nut that they also grow and process at this location. All in all, it's a very cool way to spend some time... and we each got some personalized bags of the coffee we'd roasted as souvenirs!

Seriously, as coffee lovers, we majorly geeked out at this. I'm sure I had a big goofy grin for hours afterward.

After our UCC roasting experience, we head back up to Kailua for lunch, and stop by O's Bistro. This place used to be called "Oodles of Noodles", and was listed in a few books as a good place for handmade pasta of all sorts. We enjoy an expensive but very tasty meal of calamari appetizers with a chile-lime sauce, a spicy and exceptional fish sandwich for Lucie, and a plate of spinach and regular fettuccine with a mushroom, pea, and prosciutto cream sauce for me. For dessert, Lucie enjoys a five-flavor pineapple upside down cake (the pineapples for which HAD to have been soaked for at least a week in rum, judging by the taste), and I have a bowl of ancho white chocolate ice cream. A ginger lemonade during the meal also hits the spot, and our taste buds thank us for the treat.

From there, we move to the Hilo Hattie's location in Kona, where I buy a couple CDs of Bruddah Iz (real name Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, one of the most popular Hawaiian singers in recent years and whose music I found and loved earlier this year thanks to iTunes), and Lucie picks up a fridge magnet and some poke mix because I liked the poke tuna so much at the luau.

We briefly consider stopping by Kahalu'u Bay to try out some snorkeling, but decide against it for three reasons: first, because Snorkel Bob says that the sheer popularity of Kahalu'u Bay as a beach spot has all but killed the coral there and thus endangered the ocean life that eats the live coral polyps, and we trust Snorkel Bob to know about what he speaks; second, because we'd just eaten; and thirdly, because Lucie keeps referring to it as "Kthulu'u Bay", and I don't want to run across The Fish That Should Not Be.

Gotta love obscure references. Sorry about that.

So instead of snorkeling today, we decide to relax on the lanai for the rest of the day. We pick up some flower leis (our first actual flower leis since we got here), a big submarine sandwich and several drinks for dinner, and we head on back to the Royal Kona.

We relax on our lanai, reading books and enjoying the sun for a few hours, then eat dinner and enjoy the sunset of our fifth day. Shortly after that, it begins to rain, so we call it a night and come inside.
Even with the rain, we can still hear the ocean crashing as we fall asleep.

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