Thursday, April 23, 2009

Big Island Green Tea

I came across the Big Island Tea Company last December while searching the internet for more information about genuine Hawaiian tea. When I spoke with the owner Eliah via email, I could tell she was passionate about growing and making delicious, healthy organic tea. Then she told me the wholesale price... $1 per gram. At first I thought it may have been a typo. $1 per gram is about $453 per pound, and that is much more than I've ever paid for a tea before. The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became. I know art is subjective and one man's $10,000 painting could be another man's $1 piece of junk. Hawaiian tea certainly has novelty going for it... but that alone is not enough... Eliah's tea must be a work of art... and I owe it to myself to try it! I agreed to buy 50 grams of new spring tea when it was completed.

Last week, she let me know the tea was ready, and several days later I received two 25 gram bags of fresh Hawaiian green tea!

The bag:

The packaging impressed me because it was heat sealed and it had a batch date on it. These are two special touches that I would certainly expect from a $453/lb tea. Also, the the logo was both beautifully endearing and very D.I.Y.

So with great anticipation I opened one bag. The smell that greeted me was a pure tropical mountain smell. My wife took a big whiff and sighed. "It smells like Hawaii!" she exclaimed with a smile. Several times throughout the evening I caught her sneaking more smells. The dry leaves looked great too. They were long, twisted, and completely intact.

The dry leaves:

This morning I had my first pot but it was very hard to decide how to brew it. I decided on a small teapot named Vortex (425 ml) and 8 grams of tea. I used water at 170 degrees and steeped the tea 2 minutes. The liquor was light and smelled very nice, but it was a little too light, so I steeped it 30 more seconds. I used the same temperature of water for 5 excellent infusions but the steep for #2 and #3 was three minutes. Steeps #4 and #5 were 5 minutes.

The liquor:

The flavor of this green tea is remarkably Hawaiian. Power of suggestion is very real but I don't think this is just in my head. I drink a lot of Chinese tea and I trust my palate. This tea presented me with flavors I've never experienced and a few familiar ones too. All of the infusions were very clean, delicate and nuanced, but infusion #1 started with a sulfur and mineral note that had fruity peaks on the middle of my tongue. Infusion #2 had the creamiest body, with a green banana note that worked its way up into my nose. Infusion #3 was pure Hawaii with earthy minerals and sand with a breezy flowery smell. Infusion #4 took a radical turn, this cup had a hint of sweet smoke and peppery soil. It reminded me of a lovely Yunnan green that I used to buy from Tribute Teas over five years ago. Infusion #5 was similar to #4 but it had a little watery taste indicating that it was done. Next time I'll try a gaiwan packed with leaf and go for a totally different experience.

The beautiful spent leaves:

In the end, I was satisfied by this delicious, rare, and truly Hawaiian tea. Aloha.


Bret said...

Would you buy it again? Me thinks the novelty of a Hawaiian tea is part of the reason for the price. Now Ive bought super expensive teas before also and as good as some of them were I couldn't justify re-ordering any of them. Like you though curiosity gets the better of me sometimes. But the occasional splurge never hurt anybody's pocketbook.

Brett said...

Hi Bret,
I feel this tea is worth its high price because it is delicious, rare and organic (but if this were a Chinese tea I imagine it would cost about $100 per pound).

Every spring I always "splurge" on some type of fresh green tea, and because I'm personally so fascinated with the idea of Hawaiian tea I couldn't resist.

I would buy more if I was "well to do," but it is not within my budget right now.

Alanna said...

Oh man, the fragrance of that dry leaf was incredible. Like plumerias on the ocean breeze... it transported me back to Hawaii. Next trip will be to the Big Island for sure!