Big Island Vacation, Episode III: Trivia Edition

As my friend Vanessa (Bonkers about Perfume) usually does it, here’s a disclaimer: this is not a perfume-related post. But you know what? If you read my “perfume” posts and are still around, I would bet that this one can’t be that much less interesting/useful.

This trip to Hawaii was quite educational, and I do not use it as a euphemism for something unpleasant. Quite literally, I learned many new and interesting trivia bits and had interesting experiences, mostly food-related, which now I plan to share with you.

Did you know that…

  • Between 1790 and 1870, sandalwood was a major part of Hawaii’s agricultural industry1. Too bad it’s not any more – it would have been interesting to compare it to sandalwood from other areas.
  • In the 1960s, Hawaii was responsible for 80% of the world’s pineapple. Today, Hawaii produces only 2% of the world’s pineapple. But 90% of the world’s macadamia nuts are still produced there [1].

Big Island Macadamia Nuts

  • Peaberry coffee (oval, pea-shaped coffee beans) is not a special coffee variety but rather a rare (about 5%) mutation produced by regular coffee trees.
  • Roasted coffee beans are bigger than green ones [2].

Big Island Roasted Coffee

  • Passion fruit is a vine.

Passion Fruit

  • Strawberry guava is considered the most invasive plant in Hawaii [3].

Big Island Strawberry Guava

  • Left not picked, a tea bush can grow higher than the tallest person.
  • Both green and black tea are grown on the same bush but, counter-intuitively, green tea is “cooked” (leaves are heated in a special appliance, shown below, to stop the oxidation), while black – isn’t [4].

Big Island Tea Roasting Machine

During this trip I’ve seen for the first time:

  • Tea flowers and tea seeds: you can propagate tea by either cuttings or seeds [4]. Tea flowers look beautiful both in rain and on a sunny day.
  • Growing vanilla: it looks like green beans!

Big Island Vanilla

  • Cinnamon tree: I didn’t realize before that it’s made from the bark is harvested from a live tree [4].

Big Island Sinnamon Tree

We experienced:

  • Mead from local honey infused with local tea: it tastes great on a hot day.

Big Island Tea Infused Mead

  • Chinese tea ceremony during which I smelled strong floral scent of one of the black teas: it wasn’t an imaginary or pretend-I-know-what-you-mean scent as it happens sometimes with wine tasting but it actually smelled of flowers [4].

Big Island Chinese Tea Ceremony

  • Freshly baked homemade scones with passion fruit curd: we were treated to these in the end of the tea ceremony, and they were so tasty that I started contemplating making them at home.

Scone and passion fruit curd

  • Hot and sunny mornings, perfect tropical rains and the most beautiful sunsets – and all that within an hour-drive distance


1 Source

2 From our visit to Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation that offers free coffee farm tours lead by enthusiastic staff members, sampling of coffee and other products in their shop, as well as inexpensive nature walks.

3 Wikipedia

4 From the private tour in Onomea Tea Company – three-hour event that included the tour and tea ceremony. It was probably the best experience of this type in my life, so I would highly recommend it.


Images: my own

Coffee anyone?

I saw reports on the new research published by a Beloit College professor and two of her students that suggests that sniffing coffee beans isn’t more effective than using lemon or just fresh air for the purpose of “resetting” one’s nose in between sniffing different perfumes.Coffee

Fragrance sellers often provide coffee beans to their customers as a “nasal palate cleanser,” to reduce the effects of olfactory adaptation and habituation. To test this idea, college students smelled three fragrances multiple times, rating odors each time. After completing nine trials, participants sniffed coffee beans, lemon slices, or plain air. Participants then indicated which of four presented fragrances had not been previously smelled. Coffee beans did not yield better performance than lemon slices or air.

I haven’t read the full article (I was curious but sorry, I have a better use for $32 than to buy a 24 hours access), but when I read at the Perfume Shrine:

“Fragrance sellers,” they suggest, “may wish to reconsider the practice of providing coffee beans to their customers.”

it made me think. In my opinion, the professor is wrong. Not in her findings (I assume they knew what they were doing and those results aren’t less accurate than results of any such studies) but in her conclusions.

I think that department stores should not only keep providing those jars with coffee beans but come up with the additional/alternative “cleansing” objects (glasses with cucumber water? Charcoal in some form? Baking soda?) If you focus on what is really important for those big stores (I’m not talking about small specialized shops where owners and staff are focusing on a repeating business from happy and because of that loyal customers), you’ll agree that sniffing something offered to you by an SA is much more efficient than allowing you to sniff air. While results are practically the same (please notice that the researchers do not say sniffing coffee impedes getting the right impression from a fragrance or that this approach is inferior to sniffing air), chances a customer will walk away without making a purchase are higher if an SA lets him/her to “break a contact”, pause, think, breathe… And since customers’ retention isn’t a real priority for perfume counters in department stores (an average consumer will most likely use up whatever they bought and then come back for the next Eau du Jour), car seller approach with an uninterrupted contact should work the best.

As for us, more or less seasoned perfumistas, – we all have our own tricks and methods. My approach is trying not to test more than 6-7 perfumes in one store visit. What about you?

How do you deal with an olfactory fatigue?

Image: my own