Tea plants were originally brought to the islands over a century ago, but it wasn’t until recently, around 20 years ago that tea was reimported and a consistent effort was undertaken to grow and produce tea that is unique to our island.
Tea cultivars grown in China, Taiwan, Japan and India were selected and brought to Hawai‘i and planted on small farms in Waimea, Pa‘auillo, Mountain View and Volcano and for the past 15 years black, oolong, green and white teas have been produced, not only on Hawai‘i, but now on Maui and Kaua‘i.
Teas are grown mauka to makai; that is from as high as 4000 ft. in elevation at the summit of Kīlauea volcano down to sea level in Onomea, just outside of Hilo and at every elevation in between in Kea‘au, Kurtistown and Mountain View as well as Pa‘auillo and Waimea.
The unique terroir of Hawai‘i that is found nowhere else in the world gives the teas grown and processed in Hawai‘i a uniqueness that cannot be duplicated. From the naturally acidic volcanic soils, the clean unpolluted air, the abundant rains, the ‘Ōhi‘a forests, the perfect temperatures and the absence of major tea pathogens and pests, they all combine to make the teas grown in Hawai‘i extra special and worthy of your consideration.
Abby’s Ohana Tea prides itself in its efforts in sustainability. The tea in our tea garden is grown under the strictest of organic practices and we mulch our excess tea trimmings back into our farm’s own compost along with the Hāpu‘u tree fern fronds mixed with organic crumbles and liquid organic feed to nourish and grow our tea. We try through our processes to be as carbon neutral as possible, letting the tea soak up as much carbon as possible, creating a richer soil. Picking and processing by hand, we leave the land better than we found it for the generations that are coming after we are gone.
Although our teas sold here are grown within a few miles of each other, the teas take on their own distinctive taste and flavor. Each cultivar has its own genetic makeup which is expressed in its growth rate, leaf shape and thickness, moisture content and chemical composition, not forgetting the touch of the tea crafter too.
The Benikaori cultivar which we use to make our Kīlauea Beauty was developed to produce a black tea that has a flavor uniquely suited for the American market. Benikaori 2+1 leaves and shoots are withered overnight and hand rolled over a period of 2 hours before each tea ball is carefully separated into the individual rolled tea leaves and allowed to oxidize under conditions of high humidity until the tea has transformed from emerald green to a deep bronze and a jasmine fragrance fills the room. After oxidation is completed the tea is wok fired and finished to a water content of 3-4%.
As the first light of day illuminates the majestic summit of Mauna Kea, sending a warm pink glow across the ʻĀina, there is nothing better than welcoming the start of the new day with a cup of Kilauea Beauty. Its light honey taste and jasmine aroma fill your senses and lift your spirits for the new day ahead.
Our Hawaiian Dragon Bohea can trace its origins back to the Wuyi Mountains in northern Fujian. Grown at high elevations, this tea in China is said to be worth more than its weight in gold. Our Bohea undergoes a similar processing as our Benikaori tea. Bohea however has a bouquet that is truly unique amongst our teas. It has floral characteristics in its aroma and taste of citrus and jasmine as well as smoky woody notes that come from the ‘Ōhi‘a that the tea grows under and alongside. This tea, like its relations on the mountainsides of Fujian, is prized because of the distinctive terroir of the mountainside on which it is grown in Volcano. Our Hawaiian Dragon Bohea is a darker tea and the leaves are thin and twisted with slight balling.
Hawaiian Dragon conjures up Xanadu and the pleasure dome that Kubila Khan did decree. This tea has magically taken the terroir of Hawai’i and turned it into an aromatic wonderland that caresses the sense of smell and dances across the palate with notes of floral bouquets and citrus zest as if you have entered a perfumery in Xanadu itself.
Our Kīlauea Green grown and processed by Uncle Jim on his Second Alarm Farm is a green tea grown in the rainforest on the slopes of Kīlauea. This tea is crafted completely by hand by Uncle Jim and his wife Edna. Withered and steamed, rolled and dried, Uncle Jim and Aunty Edna use only pristine leaves to create a cup of tea that you want to curl up with a good book and sip.
Our Mauna Loa Estate oolong is grown and processed by Uncle Mike at Volcano Tea Garden. It is a tea that we are proud to offer. Uncle Mike was one of the earliest proponents of tea in Hawai‘i and this tea is sought after across the globe. This golden oolong possesses a unique richness and smoothness that can be found in the finest of whiskeys. When I first drank this oolong I was speechless, as if transported to a world where nothing else mattered. This oolong made by a Hawaiian tea master is very sophisticated, boasting a dry finish, caramel sweetness and tropical notes of green papaya. Uncle Mike’s love of Hawai‘i is shown in this tea.
When initially planting out Abby’s Ohana Tea we carved out a small area for a select few Camellia sinensis var. assamica plants. These were going to be grown so we could produce a black tea reminiscent of the tea Ronald drank as a young man in Ireland. We soon discovered that the black tea produced was too good not to share. It has a naturally sweet taste that removes the need for additional honey, sugar or other sweetener. It is low in tannins making it much less astringent so removing the need to add milk. Its bright orange color is warming to the soul, its mouth feel is soft, but its full body satisfies your craving for a rich tea. It is an earthy, woody tea as our tea is grown in the heart of the Ohia rainforest of Hawaii. It is a coppery appearance as the bright orange color illuminates the cup into which it is poured. Its bouquet takes you to a place that if you close your eyes you are transported to the teahouses that sit along Piccadilly or along Pall Mall in London.
The growers at Abby’s Ohana Tea have a combined 40 years knowledge of growing tea in Hawai‘i. These unique teas are grown in an environment that some would say was made for tea. As West Hawai‘i has an environment fitted to produce the best coffee in the world, so East Hawai‘i and especially the slopes of Kīlauea has an environment uniquely suited to the growing of the world’s best tea.
We at Abby’s Ohana Tea use only the best leaves, grown in the best conditions and produced in a manner that best suits the teas of Hawai‘i. We bring you the highest quality whole rolled leaves for a cup of tea of your choice, whether first thing in the morning, at lunch, high tea, or at suppertime.
We hope you enjoy your tea drinking experience and come back again to savor all we have to offer at Abby’s Ohana Tea.
As we start this journey in tea we should, as they say in Hawai‘i … Ho’omoe Wai Kahi Ke Kao’o, let us travel together like water flowing in one direction.
Mahalo nui loa, Ke Akua pū, and a hui hou, from our ohana to you and yours, Aloha.