Hawaiian tea has been getting a lot of attention lately, and for good reason! The prime volcanic soil and sub-tropical climate is perfectly suited for the growing of select strains of camellia sinensis- our beloved tea plant. Recently, Brad was able to travel to the big island of Hawaii, visit some small tea gardens, and bring island tea back to our Salt Lake City teahouse.
Historically, tea production in the US has been nearly non-existent. Its not that our climate wouldn’t support tea, because many regions would. Its more that this labor intensive crop simply demands too much select hand picking, and our agricultural labor is far more expensive than that of other famous tea growing regions. This would be especially true for mega-plantation, mass-produced bagged tea destined for grocery store shelving- such a venture would prove a disasterous failure in American soil. Ah, but enter the small plantation craft tea!
As Americans are awakening to tea, with all its varities and styles, appreciation and demand are growing. Perception has shifted and we now realize bagged tea is boring! But fine-picked loose leaf tea is amazing! And although the cost is greater, the quality and the flavor more than justify it.
The Hawaiian Department of agriculture has been at least partly responsible for the dozens of tea gardens now popping-up through out the islands. With the decline in the sugarcane market, tea has been embraced as a suitable alternative crop with economic potential. Grants have been given, tea cultivation education has been promoted, and cultivars and cuttings have even been made available to growing community of passionate hawaiian tea growers. How exciting!
Obviously, creating a tea garden doesn’t happen overnight, so Hawaiian tea is still in its infancy, but many plants are growing and will soon be ready to offer
their finest young leaves.
The favorite tea garden visited was Mauna Kea Teas, a bit north-west of Hilo. Truly a grass-roots venture, children play in the garden that is located in a small and lovely valley immediatley behind this young family’s home. The Tea Grotto was able to secure a small amount of tea from Mauna Kea’s very limited supply. We are pleased to offer their first and second flushes from summer of 2013. Both picks are wonderful, producing a clean and refreshing cup with subtle floral undertones, similar to Fujian Chinese greens with a notable Hawaiian Island vibe! Be sure to try one of these special pots! (These teas are not yet available online. You’ll have to come into the shop in Salt Lake City to try this unique tea.)