Sunday, November 15, 2009

Beg your pardon: Hawaii tea promises a rose garden

At the end of a very busy, weary week, I arrived home to find some new samples in the mail from Eva Lee at Tea Hawaii. A cup of tea can revive you, sure, but the promise of tasting a new tea can accomplish about as much.

This morning, I opened the Forest White: "Forest grown under a canopy of Ohia trees and Hapuu ferns and processed in Volcano Village at 4000' elevation." Snipping the bag caused a rush of sense memories for me ... of grandma. My father's mother wore tea rose perfume all the time; the mere whiff of it now delivers me immediately to her immaculate home and the kitchen table where she'd beat me at gin rummy. The tea rose hybrids themselves were named for a strain of the species that allegedly smelled like tea; now here's a tea that reeks of roses. A firm bouquet, too. Eva reports: "The white tea is not scented, pure organic tea grown in the forest. I believe most of the scent is due to our location as other white teas on the island are different and not as sweet." (I wonder if the nearby Ohia trees, with their Pele legend, somehow contribute to the scent in the tea...?) I'm continually amazed by the variety of scents and flavors that come from this single plant.

The leaf of this tea is whole, with dry semi-blackened buds largely intact (like the photo above, a perfect budset). Dry it smells of roses, steeped it smells of roses. The flavor, fortunately, is light on the rosy, with a hint of non-oaked chardonnay. Plus there's that faint earthy underpinning that I so love in Hawaii teas so far — a flavor of loamy soil I haven't encountered in other teas, maybe because of the new territory, or the unique volcanic signature of this island.

It produces a not-altogether-pretty grey color in the cup (try it in cups without white interiors), quite light, and it infuses repeatedly with some strength. I poured a pot with my breakfast, which was a bad move. The floral strength and lightness of this tea would be considerably better in the afternoon with a sweeter and less substantial snack, or perfectly fine on its own.

Contact Eva to procure some (her Makai Black is poised to become one of my fall-back teas, too). She is one groovy tea master, as you can see in this video, and this one, and this one. (Samovar, please allow embeds!)


  1. I just love hearing about these Hawaii teas. An earthy undertone? Fabulous. Right now I have some tea on the way from Narien with a sample of its Kilinoe Green, another Hawaii tea. I look forward to trying that.

  2. Hello Thomas, Thank you for your introduction! I have been helping Eva Lee out with her website and we are posting links back to reviews on the web.

    Mahalo, Ian Chun (Matcha Latte Media)

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