On the slopes of Mauna Loa, in the heart of Hawaii’s Fern Forest lies Big Island Tea. Located on windward side of the island, this tea farm stands at 3000′ elevation atop a 400 year old ash deposit. Unlike the leeward side of the island that’s much more arid, this eastern side is considered the lusher half, known for its scenic waterfalls and stunning greenery.
To get to Big Island Tea you’ll need to drive down a seemingly endless one lane road, making a right turn at the very end. Continue down a gravel path and look for this humble green gate—behind it, some of the world’s best tea is grown.
Sun, rain, terroir, and master hands at work–this is what makes an exquisite cup of Big Island Tea. Their black tea reveals complex layers of flavor, from raisins and cherries to butter, caramel, and even cookie dough! A visit to their farm affirms why this tea is so unforgettably unique.
Upon entering the farm, what stands out immediately is its biodiversity. Not only have over a thousand genetically diverse tea plants thrived here, but native trees and understory plants have as well. There is a symbiotic relationship between all of the elements on the farm. Even cuttings from banana trees and ferns are used to provide an enriched covering around the base of each tea plant.
Eliah & Cam are the artisans behind Big Island Tea. Originally from Canada, they established their tea farm in 2001 using agro-ecological farming practices that emulate the forest conditions in Yunnan, China.
From seedling to finished tea, Eliah & Cam intensively oversee each and every aspect of a leaf’s transformation. This tea is beyond organic–it is herbicide and pesticide free, hand-picked and rolled, and meticulously processed.
At first glance you’ll probably think that this tea is on the pricey side. It’s true, because this tea is grown in America and labor costs are higher here, these costs trickle down to the tea drinker. One should also remember that this is a small batch, rare product, recognized for outstanding quality by some of the world’s leading tea connoisseurs.
If you’re curious to learn more, a stop by the tea farm in person is definitely the way to go. On the day we met up, Eliah set up a fabulous tea tasting where I fell in love with their signature `A`a Black Tea and also enjoyed their Kilinoe Green Tea, a bright and breezy steep with floral undertones.I left with a packet of the `A`a (a.k.a “lava tea”), which has become one of the most cherished teas in my collection. As you can see from my pairing with Harrods’ Scones yesterday, this tea starts out twisted and almost dragon-like and unfurls to reveal gorgeously unbroken leaves upon steeping.
Some other options for trying Big Island Tea are a visit to Harrods or even Thomas’s at Burberry in London. That’s right, the Brits know good tea when they taste it! In New York, check out Eleven Madison Park or The Sip Tea Lounge, and in Canada drop by Savon DuBois.
Hawaii locals have it the best, and can try a cup of Big Island Tea at Bloomingdales’ Forty Carrots in Honolulu or at Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii. Until my next trip to The Aloha State, I’ll be enjoying my tea via mail order, direct from the tea farm sitting atop the world’s largest volcano!
Big Island Tea
18-2465 North Glenwood Road
Mountain View, HI 96771
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org (to order tea or schedule a visit)