LOCAL TEA

I love seeing where my food comes from. Unfortunately, much of what we consume comes from out of state. But a growing number of products are being cultivated here, with tea being one of those products. And the best locally-grown tea, at least in my opinion, is the green tea from Mauna Kea Tea.

THE LOCATION

As its name suggests, Mauna Kea Tea is on the slopes of Mauna Kea. Specifically, it’s in the town of Honokaa off of the Old Mamalahoa Hwy, about 10-minute drive from Tex Drive In.

If you’re visiting the farm yourself, keep your eyes open. The farm has no sign and is difficult to see from the road. In fact, it looks like you’re at a house when you get there. But trust your GPS; as long as you plug-in the right address, it’ll lead you to the correct place.

Mauna Kea Tea

So, the farm looks like a house because it is. The upstairs portion, the part you’ll see first when visiting, is the owners’ home. They actually live there and homeschool their children there. So don’t be surprised if you see them running around, or even helping out during the tours.

Mauna Kea Tea

FARMING PRACTICES

Manua Kea Tea is an organic farm. No pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers here. What’s more, Mauna Kea Tea propagates using cuttings, which makes the already tricky organic farming practices even more taxing, as cloned plants are more susceptible to pests.  But, they do this to control quality.

Our guide, Kayla, explained that plants that are grown from cuttings, understandably, retain traits they like. Plants that are grown from seeds, though, are highly inconsistent and often don’t maintain the qualities of their parent plant. So, by doing this, Mauna Kea Tea can offer a consistent, high-quality product.

Mauna Kea Tea

How the tea is harvested makes a difference in quality too. For their Organic Premium Green, Mauna Kea Tea harvests by hand. “Two leaves and a bud” plucked carefully and gently processed to maintain their delicate, mildly sweet aroma.

TYPES OF TEA

If green tea isn’t quite your thing, Mauna Kea Tea does offer flavored teas too. These are no longer sold under the Mauna Kea Tea brand, though, and are instead called Fusion infused teas. One of my favorites is their Ginger and Turmeric Green Tea, which has a robust, zesty ginger flavor. They also have two other flavors I haven’t tried, which is the Coconut Green and the Hawaiian Cacao. The Cacao Tea, by the way, is the only one that doesn’t have tea leaves in it. What it does have is cacao beans, coconut, tea twigs, licorice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and peppermint. Sounds interesting!

Mauna Kea Tea

I almost forgot mention one last variety of tea that’s available at the farm only. And that is their Honoka’a Bancha. This type of tea typically uses older growth leaves that are harvested later in the season. Manua Kea Tea’s version is traditionally roasted and aged for three years, giving the tea a unique, robust flavor.

TOURS + VISITING

Mauna Kea Tea is, first and foremost, a working farm. So, just popping in for a quick visit isn’t allowed. Instead, you’ll need to make an appointment; but don’t worry, appointments to shop don’t cost a thing. Just, please be sure to buy something to make it worth their while.

Mauna Kea Tea

Of course, tours are available too. Tour days are Tuesday and Thursday at 2 pm, and yes, advance reservations are required. Tours cost $30 per person for 2-3 people, $20 per person for 4 – 9 people, and $18 per person for 10+ people. If you’re unable to make those dates and times, I encourage you to call anyway, as other arrangements can be made. Oh, and a 15% kama’aina discount is available too.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Visiting Mauna Kea Tea is a unique experience. I’ve long wanted to drop by the farm, and I’m glad I finally did. Next time, I hope to have time to do the tour, as it’s such a unique place. And yes, the tea really does taste different than others you’ll find in the store thanks to the terroir of the Big Island and their farming practices. This, by the way, is coming from someone that likes tea but is by no means a connoisseur.

Oh, and if you’re a matcha fiend, stay tuned. Mauna Kea Tea is currently working on ceremony-grade matcha. They did a test batch last year that was of lower quality and was used to make chocolate, so I’m excited to see how this new type of tea comes out!

Mauna Kea Tea
4603870 Old Mamalahoa Highway
Honokaa, Hawaii 96727
Ph: 808-775-1171
www.maunakeatea.com