Becoming na‘auao

When planning and starting a business, owners have a vision, usually a big one.  We were no different.  After nearly three and a half years, much of that vision has come to fruition.  However, some of our vision has not been given the tender loving care we would have liked to have given it.  The truth is, starting a business and making is successful takes more time and energy than anyone ever expects.  With those resources limited, some things are pushed to the front of the queue while others are kept patiently waiting for another day.

Daylight Mind cupping spoon - in use

Specifically, we’re thinking about the ideal behind the Hawaiian word that we take our name from, na‘auao.  On a permanent page of our website, we wrote about where our name and logo come from.  We wrote of discovery and knowledge, exploring known and unknown waters, and using scientific methods and principles in decision making.  We have embraced these ideals since opening.  But not enough.

Today is the day we drag some of that vision to the front of the queue.  Of course, that vision will evolve and we’re likely to get overwhelmed with the day-to-day running of the company occasionally.  Nonetheless, we will strive to live up to our vision to pursue knowledge and enlightenment.

So, what does this mean, practically?  For one, we aim to write blogs regularly.  This will not only help us explore ideas but let us share that journey for knowledge with you.  They’ll cover myriad topics, though mostly coffee-related ones.  We have plans to run experiments that will test ideas that seem worthwhile but may not be practical to excecute (we’ll blog about some of those, too!).  We are also developing a monthly seminar series where (mostly) local experts or very knowledgeable enthusiasts teach us and anyone interested about a topic of their choosing (interested in speaking?  Please contact us!).  Of course, we will continue to grow our coffee school so that more people have access to the coffee knowledge they always wanted.

As the year progresses, we hope to discover new and interesting ways to inhabit na‘auao.  We look forward to sharing those experiences with you and hearing your feedback!

Volunteering in coffee: Haiti

As promised, we let owner Shawn Steiman off his leash to take another international volunteer coffee trip.  This time, he went to Haiti to participate in a conference and work with cooperative leaders.  We are humbled by the effort and passion of coffee growers around the world and are very glad we can help support them in ways other than just purchasing their coffee.

This trip and conference were organized by Haiti Coffee in the U.S. and Makouti Agro Enterpise in Haiti.  These two companies have spent years working together to help the Haitian coffee industry.  They’ve supplied resources, training, and support.  Their efforts are largely funded by USAID and the Farmer-to-Farmer program.  The following is Dr. Steiman’s personal account of his trip.

The Haitian coffee industry has plenty of challenges.  Throughout its past, it has been incredibly successful and was able to earn a fair reputation for its coffee.  However, the country of Haiti has struggled in many ways and the coffee industry has suffered, unsurprisingly.  Political turmoil, natural disasters, and poverty all have wreaked havoc on a once-proud industry. 

Unfortunately, much coffee knowledge has been lost in the country in recent decades for a variety of reasons.  Generally, coffee quality in Haiti has not been very good, rarely attaining the SCAA’s score of 80 points to mark it as “specialty”.  Moreover, green coffee prices are relatively high, turning off buyers who feel they can purchase better tasting coffees at much lower prices.  Mostly, only buyers with a long vision to the future or charity buyers have been acquiring green Haitian coffee.  While this is well and good, it is not sustainable and there are too few companies participating.

The Haiti coffee industry faces many challenges.  Fortunately, there’s increasing support from buyers and aid organizations.  While progress is slow, I think in 4-8 years time, we’ll see and taste the hard work of these supporters and be grateful for their efforts.

This was my second volunteer trip to Haiti.  My first was in 2013 and, back then, I also worked with Makouti.  On my first trip, I saw a greater range of coffee regions as I traveled in both the north and south of the country.  This trip, I was based strictly in the north, in Cap Hatien, at Makouti headquarters, though we did make trips to both Don Don and Plezans to visit cooperatives and farms.

Weeding a nursery 3.15.jpg

Dr. Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, an amazing woman and owner of Haiti Coffee, invited me to return to Haiti to participate in a conference she was putting together.  The conference was targeted towards regional cooperative leaders and the topics it covered ranged quite a bit.  I was asked to discuss agricultural issues and I was all too happy to oblige.  Although, I couldn’t resist myself and I assisted Beth Dominick of Sacred Grounds with cup quality and green coffee sorting as much as she’d let me.  Also in leadership roles were Tommy Bassett (engaging in contracts), Arthur Bassett (production and sanitation), and Christa Pettis Michaud (women in coffee).  Local issues were discussed by Benito Jasmin (owner of Makouti) in addition to guiding some team building experiences.

Throughout the two day conference, I was astounded by the passion and hunger for knowledge displayed by the attendees.  I really feel as if we made a difference and were able to convey useful knowledge to these leaders.  Nearly a day of flying (each way) and driving over many bumpy roads is well worth it when I feel as optimistic as I do about this industry. 

While there are many experiences I’d like to write about, there just isn’t space for them all.  So, I’m going to share a video I took on my first volunteer trip to Haiti.  This video is from a workshop in Picot where we were preparing soil medium for use in planting seedlings.  In the video, the community is pulverizing dung which will serve as the nutrition source for the seedlings.  I find it impossible not to get caught up in their energy and joy of working with coffee and each other. 

It makes me think of the slogan that the recent conference participants came up with for themselves: cafe se num nu.  Coffee is my soul.

Volunteering in coffee: Ethiopia

Here at Daylight Mind, we try to always remember we have things pretty good in the United States.  We consider ourselves fortunate and we recognize that we have a very talented crew who can often do much more in the coffee industry than our little business requires.  Thus, we’ve decided to offer our assistance in ways that don’t directly benefit us but will hopefully help others in the coffee industry.

Thus, we recently sent our Chief Science Officer, Shawn Steiman, on a volunteer assignment to the coffee motherland (Ethiopia).  He spent a bit over a week working with the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union (OCFCU), headquartered in the small town of Gelan.  The following is his story.



The statue, a man picking coffee, at the entrance of the OCFCU headquarters

The statue, a man picking coffee, at the entrance of the OCFCU headquarters

This volunteer assignment was part of the Farmer-to-Farmer program, a USAID funded and U.S.-based program to send volunteer experts from the U.S. to work with groups around the world.  The coordinating organization was Catholic Relief Services.  This was my second Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer trip; my first was in Haiti in 2013.

The general purpose of my assignment was to help the OCFCU in any way I could.  The OCFCU is a huge operation.  Basically, they are a coop of coops.  It is owned by 311 primary cooperatives (wet mills, essentially) and has a total membership of more than 288,000 farmers.  It serves as the seller, exporter, and advocate of all those farmers and primary cooperatives.

Their primary request was to identify coffee traceability technology and software to coordinate that, warehouse logistics, and admin services.  Secondarily, they wanted me to work with their quality control department to offer what knowledge and experience they deemed valuable.

While I’m not a logistics expert, I was able to suggest a system for them to use as well as connect them with several companies that could help them implement the hardware and software systems required.  While volunteer assignments are to be fairly self-contained, the scope of the system they desire is well beyond any volunteer’s abilities.  Thus, the project can only move forward by hiring a company who specializes in this area.  I intend to continue participating in this project as time progresses, if for no other reason than to facilitate its success.  If the OCFCU adopts my recommendation, I think they’ll see a huge gain in efficiency and cost savings over time.

My work with the quality department was a little less successful, unfortunately.  I did get the opportunity to cup with one of their cuppers a few times but otherwise, it seems they didn’t prepare for my arrival too well and were unable to squeeze me into their schedule.

Cupping in the OCFCU cupping lab

Cupping in the OCFCU cupping lab

While rarely overtly stated, part of being a volunteer in a foreign country is to learn about the culture of that country and bring back that experience to the U.S.  While I could write a lot about the food, the National Museum of Ethiopia (I saw Lucy!), and even a bit about daily cultural practices, I’m not going to.  Instead, I’m going to write about coffee (duh!) in Ethiopia.

Many travelers talk about the Ethiopian coffee ceremony as a valuable part of their experience in the country.  While I’ve witnessed the ceremony (this is my second trip to Ethiopia), my experience is that rarely is there anything ceremonial about it.  Sure, on important occasions, there is some pomp and circumstance.  Mostly, though, the “ceremony” is just people making coffee to drink. 

First, let’s talk about the coffee they drink.  Like most producing countries, the highest quality coffees are reserved for the export market.  Bringing in money from abroad is a big help to economies.  While this is good on a country-wide, economic level, it means that the locals don’t get to drink the best of the best.  Rather, they drink lower quality coffee, no matter who they are.  As a coffee professional who appreciates the world’s most complex coffees, it is always a shock to be in a producing country and drinking mediocre coffee!

The "coffee bar" at my favorite restaurant in Gelan

The "coffee bar" at my favorite restaurant in Gelan

While the quality may not be up to my usual standards, it is more than made-up for in cultural experience.  Coffee is drunk by everyone, everywhere.  Nearly the entire country roasts their own coffee (almost daily).  Every half block in any town there will be a vendor, of some sort, selling coffee.  I’ve never met a vendor who wasn’t incredibly friendly and patient with my lack of knowledge of the local language (while there is a national language, Amharic, there are over 80 tribal languages that are still actively used around the country).

The coffee is brewed strong by U.S. standards; I’d guess a water:coffee ratio of 15:1.  The resulting brew has a lot of body and is often bitter.  Thus, sugar is a staple everywhere and it is often added before the coffee is served.  While I never use sugar in my coffee, it is hard to pass it up when a friendly woman, bearing a big smile, is offering it to you.

Coffee is always served in small portions, in adorable cups (with saucers) that hold less than 60 ml (2 oz).  Besides sugar, the other common item added to the coffee is an herb, locally called tenadam (Rue; Ruta chalepensis).  It is meant to be stirred in the coffee for a short time to lend some of its flavor.  In the cup, it is a subtle addition and hard to discern, but by nibbling on the herb, the flavor screams out at you.  I describe the flavor as being primarily essence of lilikoi (passionfruit), some evaporative-menthol taste, and a bit of spiciness. 

A typical cup of Ethiopian coffee with a sprig of tenadam

A typical cup of Ethiopian coffee with a sprig of tenadam

It is hard not to enjoy and appreciate the coffee, even if it is a completely different taste experience than I’d normally choose.  There’s something a bit magical about drinking coffee in the birthplace of coffee with the people who discovered and developed it.  If you ever get the chance to visit Ethiopia, don’t pass up the opportunity to try the coffee.

In all, it was good to be in Ethiopia and I’m glad I could help the OCFCU in some way.  I advocate for every person from a developed nation to visit a developing nation, it is quite enlightening.  There seem to be ample volunteer opportunities, too, at least in the coffee world.  I’ve already got another one planned for March, in Haiti.

If you have any questions or want to chat about my experience, feel free to add comments below or email me.

The date coffee first arrived in Hawai‘i

On September 8, 2010, the following information was published on a blog by Daylight Mind owner Shawn Steiman.  That blog has since been shut down and we think the information it contains is valuable and interesting for all keen on the Hawaiian coffee industry.  Therefore, we are republishing it here as originally written.  Enjoy!


Knowledge is great, even if any given piece of information has no apparent use or benefit.  After all, what we know helps define who we are and how we think about the world.  Understanding ourselves tends to lead to richer, more meaningful interactions with the world and those in it.  Thus, when it comes to information about my past and the past of my community (in this case, the Hawai‘i coffee community), I’m keen to know and understand every piece of information as accurately as possible.  This includes just exactly when coffee first arrived to Hawai‘i.

If you look into the history of coffee’s arrival to Hawai‘i, you’ll discover that most sources report that it was first brought by the Spaniard Don Francisco de Paula Marin, but that his plantings weren’t successful.  In the next sentence, you’ll probably read that it was successfully introduced in 1825 when it arrived from Brazil on the HMS Blonde- with no assistance from Marin.  One of two dates will be written for its initial introduction by Marin: January 21, 1813 or December 30, 1817.  My own book quotes the 1817 date.  After some research with the assistance of Skip Bittenbender (agriculture extension specialist and professor at the University of Hawai‘i) and Gerald Kinro (environmental consultant and author of A Cup of Aloha: The Kona Coffee Epic), I am now inclined to think that neither of these dates are correct.  In fact, I now believe that coffee first arrived to Hawai‘i in 1825.

This lengthy post is going to discuss where those two dates associated with Marin come from.  Then, it will attempt to disprove them.  Finally, it will explore why 1825 may be the correct date.  At the end of the post, I’ll include a complete bibliography of all the sources used to support my thesis. 

Whence these two initial dates?  The usage of the 1813 date can be traced to two published sources, although, both actually rely upon information from the same individual, Baron Goto (agronomist, University of Hawai‘i professor, and Vice Chancellor of the East-West Center).  The first source is Hawaii’s Crop Parade, written by David Crawford (1937).  In his discussion of coffee, he includes a footnote that reads, “The first planting of coffee in Hawaii was on January 21, 1813 by Don Marin, according to an entry in his journal. (Information furnished by Mr. Y. B. Goto who is compiling a history of the coffee industry in Hawaii.).”  Forty-five years later, Goto published that same history in an article titled “Ethnic groups and the coffee industry in Hawai‘i” (1982).  To support the 1813 arrival date, he includes the following footnote, “Don Francisco de Paula Marin, Journal translated by Robert C. Wyllie, photostatic copy, AH. The published version of the journal (Ross H. Gast and Agnes C. Conrad, Don Francisco de Paula Marin [Honolulu: University Press of Hawaii for the Hawaiian Society, 1973) gives the dates of these first coffee plantings incorrectly as 1817.”

As you might imagine, the source of the 1817 date is the biography of Marin that Goto mentions.  In 1973 (reprinted in 2002), Ross Gast (agricultural extension office at the University of Hawai‘i), with the assistance of Agnes Conrad (head archivist at the Hawai‘i State Archives from 1955-1983), wrote the most detailed and comprehensive biography of Marin that exists.  In the biography, Gast does not mention that Marin brought coffee to Hawai‘i.  In the appendix, Gast prints the entirety of what is available of Marin’s journal (more on that in a minute).  No journal entry mentions coffee.  However, beneath the entry for December 30, 1817, there is a paragraph of commentary (added by Wyllie; more on him soon) that reads:     

            Marin’s Occupation

Commanding the Brig Craymocu – acting the part of public accuser – planting coffee, cotton, making lime, cutting stones – weighing sandal wood, planting roses – making shirts, salting pork, giving medicine, making pickles, planting pineapples – turnips, peppers chiles, making castor oil – painting [torn] ts – sowing wheat – making soap, [torn] planting saffron – making molasses [torn] planting peaches, cherries – making poe [poi].

It is important to share what is included in Marin’s entry for the January 21, 1813 date, as stated in Gast’s appendix. 

21 Jany.  This day I planted pineapples and an orange tree (It appears from Journal No. 1 and 2 that Marin had before planted beans, parsley, onions, cabbages, potatoes, peaches, horse-radish, vines, melons, tobacco, made cigars, planting taro, acted as butcher, mason, ship carpenter, making hay, tiles, planting maiz, fig trees, lemons, lettuce, making coacoa nut oil.

As you can see, it makes no mention of coffee.  The material after the parentheses was added by Wyllie (be patient, we’re almost to him).

Goto’s footnote clearly states that he believes Gast made a mistake.  If both men read the same journal, how could they have interpreted it so differently?  To understand this, you must first understand a bit about the journal.

Unfortunately, the original journal of Marin no longer exists.  At least, if it does, nobody has admitted to having it since 1847.  In 1847, Robert Crichton Wyllie (Minister of Foreign Affairs) translated Marin’s journal from Spanish to English.  Sadly, Wyllie didn’t have the entire journal-it seems most of it never made it to his possession.  What he did have, he translated.  That original translation (and a public-accessible photocopy) currently resides in the Hawai‘i State Archives.  This translation is what Goto, Gast, and I have read. 

While translating the text of the journal, Wyllie added comments in the margins and other empty spaces of the paper.  I don’t know where he found the information he added as his commentary; he offers no source and I’ve not researched it, yet.  As Marin died in 1837, it is plausible that Wyllie had access to people and papers that were contemporary with Marin that we’ll never know about. 

It is Wyllie’s commentary, I believe, which is the source of all the historical confusion.  Next to the January 21, 1813 entry (which occurs on page 9), Wyllie inserted a comment into the margin, directly next to and now associated with the entry.  His comment begins, “Marin's occupations”.  The comment does not mention coffee.  The comment is incomplete and it continues on separate pages (I found no evidence to suggest why the specific subsequent pages were chosen for the continuation).  The end of the comment reads “see page 22”.  On page 22, the comment continues beneath the December 30, 1817 entry (see text above from Gast’s appendix).  To me, it seems like the commentary was separate and unrelated to the text of the December 30 entry (as if it was merely filling a blank space that occurred at the end of a calendar year).  The commentary further continues on page 79, before the September 1823 entry.  There is no mention of coffee on this page.

From this, I conclude that Goto decided that since the commentary began on the 1813 date, that was the date on which coffee was planted by Marin.  Whatever Goto’s reasoning, I find the 1813 date very hard to believe.  Nothing about the journal nor Wyllie’s comments suggest that coffee and 1813 are related.  Readers of Gast’s book, seeing Wyllie’s insertion of “planting coffee” just beneath the 1817 date, must have concluded that was the year coffee was brought by Marin. 

Wyllie, for whatever reason, was convinced that the 1817 date was the date on which Marin planted coffee.  In 1850, Wyllie gave a speech to the inaugural meeting of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society.  In this speech, he delineates agriculturally relevant dates (for Hawai‘i) from Marin's journal.  For the January 21, 1813 date, he says nothing about coffee.  However, he included coffee in the December 30, 1817 date.  

Wyllie’s conviction for the 1817 date is compelling, except that he offers no evidence for believing it.  I am not convinced of this date because of a Russian explorer named Vasilii Golovin.  Golovin spent time with Marin on O‘ahu during November 7-11, 1818.  In his journal, Golovin wrote, “The tireless Spaniard is making efforts to obtain coffee trees and tea bushes, but so far has not succeeded”.  The term “obtain” is unequivocal: by the end of 1818, Marin had no coffee to unsuccessfully plant!

Based on all this evidence, I find it difficult to believe that either 1813 or 1817 is the original arrival date of coffee to Hawai‘i.  Moreover, I don’t think there is credible evidence that Marin brought it (although, Gast proffers evidence that he planted it after it arrived in 1825).  The earliest known recorded arrival of coffee to Hawai‘i is on the HMS Blonde in 1825.  In his journal, Andrew Bloxam, a naturalist on the Blonde, listed that 30 coffee plants were on the boat.

Many people have looked into the history of plant arrivals to Hawai‘i.  None, except Goto, has confidently listed a date earlier than 1825 for coffee’s arrival.  I suspect all of the obvious resources have been looked at that would suggest an earlier date.  Until any other trustworthy resource is found to include contradictory information, I must believe that 1825 is the date of coffee’s arrival to Hawai‘i.

New information can surface at any time.  Thus, as I continue my research on this topic, I look forward to finding new pieces of this historical puzzle.  As I write this, in fact, I’m waiting to hear back from the author of a recent publication that offers several new ideas about coffee’s history in Hawai‘i, including its arrival date.  When I can confirm his information, I’ll be sure to share it with all who are interested!          



Bloxam, A. 1925.  Diary of Andrew Bloxam, naturalist of the “Blonde” on her trip from England to the Hawaiian islands, 1824-25. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum Special Publication 10.  96 pp.

Crawford, D. 1937. Hawaii’s Crop Parade: a review of useful products derived from the soil in the Hawaiian Islands, Past and Present.  Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing Co., Ltd.  305 pp.

Gast, R. 2002.  Don Francisco de Paula Marin: A biography.  Agnes C. Conrad, ed.  Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.  344 pp.

Golovnin, V. 1979.  Around the World on the Kamchatka, 1817-1819.  Translated by Ella Wiswell.  Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press. 353 pp.

Goto, B. 1982.  “Ethnic groups and the coffee industry in Hawai‘i”.  Hawaiian Historical Society.  112–124.

Kinro, G. 2003.  A Cup of Aloha: The Kona Coffee Epic.  Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.  150 pp.

Steiman, S. 2008.  The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i.  Honolulu: Watermark Publishing.  144 pp.

Wyllie, R. 1850.  “Wyllie's Address, Read before the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society, on the 12th of August, 1850”. The Transactions of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society: Including a Record of the Proceedings Preliminary to the formation of the society, in August, 1850. Honolulu: Henry M. Whitney, Government Press. 1(1): 36-49.