by kate on November 2nd, 2012
Canton Tea Club Week 5: Hawaii Volcano Green Tea
The first sip of the Volcano Green was a revelation to all of us: a moment of pure tropical bliss. We hope you are as excited by this tea as we are. It is the first of three teas (oolong and white follow in the next two weeks) grown in the lush rainforest environment of the volcanic island paradise that is Hawaii.
We were introduced to Hawaii-grown tea by Jane Pettigrew, who recently visited Hawaii and was seriously impressed with the work Eva Lee is doing to produce artisan teas and promote tea culture on the island. Eva and her husband Chiu are involved with all aspects of the teas production: from picking to selling, and are pioneers in bringing the culture of tea to Hawaii.
Eva answered my questions on the history of tea production in Hawaii and the making of this week’s tea.
Kate: How long have people been making tea in Hawaii?
Eva: Research in tea was reintroduced in the year 2000. Farms have been in commercial production for the past 6 years.
Kate: How long have you been growing tea?
Eva: Chiu and I have been growing tea for 10 years and have been in commercial production of rare teas for 6 years. The Volcano Green is new as of 2012.
Kate: What makes Hawaii a good place to grow tea?
Eva: Isolated from other countries, no pollution and minimal pests. Hawaii has the perfect acidic soils to grow tea due to past and present volcanic activity, clean air and pure clean water.
Kate: How did you get involved with the Hawaii tea industry?
The announcement made to the public from research scientist Dr. Francis Zee from USDA (Pacific Basin Agriculture Research) that Hawaii had excellent conditions for growing tea initiated our interest in tea agriculture. Since that time I formed a collective of growers interested in working together to bring Hawaii grown teas global.
Kate: What elevations are the teas grown at?
Eva: The teas are grown at 4000′ and 3600′ elevations. Presently our farm grows the highest elevation teas in Hawaii at 4000′.
Kate: How is the Volcano green made?
Eva: In 2011 we had met with tea growers from Japan at the World Tea Expo discussing harvesting techniques and the challenges to increase production without mechanical harvesters. USA environmental protection agency changed their laws a few years ago blocking importation on two cycle engines used in tea farming that were not USA EPA certified and since USA is not known as a tea producing country it is impossible for manufactures to retool for the USA regulation unless huge volume of mechanical harvesters are requested.
One step closer, the folks from Japan were kind enough to send us an old family hand shears for tea harvesting. So our process in harvesting is first hand harvest the top bud and 2 leaf and then shear the 3rd leaf. We pan fire to stop the oxidation, roll and roast dry.
Kate: Finally, why do you think Hawaii-grown tea is special?
Eva: We are pioneering domestic USA Hawaii Grown Teas free of pesticides, chemicals etc. Hawaii grown tea has a unique history developed through numerous collaborations with USDA, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. Many individuals from County to Federal government have furthered research for us tea artists of Hawaii interested in small scale specialty crop with incorporated lifestyle offering inspiration and wellbeing.
The aroma of the dry leaves gave hubby and me a bit of consternation. It was like lightly composted vegetation. Hm. We were pleasantly surprised with the taste of the liquid, though. Having never been to nor any interest in ever going to Hawaii, we don’t know if the comments are the card are accurate (like walking on a beach in Hawaii). Rather, we relate the sensations to our own life experiences. Steeped it gongfu style. First infusion was smooth buttery feeling, had melon rind flavor. Subsequent infusions less smooth but more melony. A truly lovely tea that we had the pleasure of trying as our penultimate entry here in the tea club.
First Steep – 7 seconds
Colour is yellow that smells of subtle yet sweet melon (I wouldn’t say specifically watermelon) . Taste wise it’s sweet and fruity, a little floral and fresh. Simply put this does tastes like a combination of melon and cucumber but very subtly so, as far as the first steep goes that is. So far this is delicious, if it increases in strength then things will go from good to great for me.
Second Steep – 17 seconds
Same yellow colour and same fragrance. The strength has however increased to conjure a delicious cocktail of melon, cucumber, flowers, fresh cut grass and cucumber.
Third Steep – 22 seconds
Same colour and same gentle smell. The flavour has again doubled in strength and has lost some of it sweetness but gained more floral and fruit tones. There is still no bitterness or nastiness at all. I think I’m starting to fall in love with this tea.
Fourth steep – 32 seconds
Same colour but the smell is a little more floral now. Very fruity now and still very fresh and slightly sweet yet dry. The cucumber is really coming through now also, if you eat a large piece of cucumber then you get a specific taste that I find hard to describe other than being green, fresh, watery and gentle but it’s the same sort of taste I get with this tea. Delicious.
Fifth steep – 42 seconds
A little more melon now in the fragrance and still the same yellow colour. Still v=picking up the melon and cucumber but now I can taste the flowers stronger than the previous steeps.
Sixth steep – 48 seconds
Now the colour is starting to pale slightly as is the fragrance. Also still tasting flowers before the fruity melon and cucumber mixture but it’s still fresh and delicate.
Seventh steep – 58 seconds
Now very pale in colour and not much of anything detectable by smell alone. This tea finishes off with a sweet melon flourish.
A beautiful tea, great job. Overall rating of 9/10.
I found that more leaves and a longer brew time really brought out much more in this tea. I think it's worth pushing the boundaries of the instructions given to bring out extra flavour.
I'll start with Hawaiin teas this evening (in my box there's already the Makua Oolong!)!I wish in the next weeks there will be something from Turkey
This is a lovely tea, interesting, unusual and very enjoyable.
The Gaiwan method produces a range of flavours which develop and ebb and flow over 10 infusions or more. This way, the drawback is that there is little aroma and all the flavours come out on the aftertaste, after the liquor has been swallowed.
Melon, like a flash of cotton candy sweetness, then a slightly fishy cucumber and, after that, a nuttiness with an oolong-type fruit gum texture.
The quicker method produces more in your face results, with an immediate and more up front experience, with a nice melony aroma and front taste, though it is still the follow-through flavours which enchant, With the 2nd infusion of 3 mins the fruitgummy mouthfeel and flavour is there and flavours of raspberry, possibly, and pineapple, too. I brewed a bit hotter, but only around 82 degs, After the third three minutes, I tried a 4th and 5th infusion, of 5 and 7 mins, respectively and this proved far from wasteful, with deeper and gummier flavours predominating.
So it's, the Gaiwan method for the more celebral experience and the regular way for a great, great cup of very unusual tea.
I was going to skip the oolong next week, because I have quite a few in stock, but there's no way I'm going to miss the next Hawaiin offering now; I only hope it's as interesting and delicious as this one
My 4-yr-old daughter was excited to have a Hawaiian tea with me this morning. This is a very, very subtle tea. I accidentally let the water get to a full boil, but maybe that was an ok thing. I get just the faintest tropical essence. I found the long, very lightly twisted tea leaves very unique. And then they unfurled most beautifully!
The smell of the leaves is incredible. I enjoyed the melony flavour when steeped at the lower temperature, but find it a little lacking in body. I tried raising the temperature as lazy_literatus suggested but found that it added little to the taste and tended to reduce the beauty of the subtle flavours.
I could just recycle and/or copy-paste my notes from Steepster, but I had sooooooo much more to say about this than what was on there. First off, my excitement for this was largely due to this being an A-MURR-ican tea. Everything I've had from Hawaii has been one shade of awesome or another, but I was hit or miss on the greens. The last one I tried from this outfit - their Ol'a green - was temperamental.
Not so with this sucker.
To any one brewing it up, let me stress that the recommendations on the bag are dead wrong. A 65C-75C water temperature is WAY too light. Go full-on boil for this and a steep of two minutes. The result is tropics-personified.
I got multiple shades of citrus, some pickling effect (like Japanese Awabancha), tanginess, a bit of a melon-like aftertaste. Just a whole lot o" stuff going on - like an actual volcano. I can't say I like it as much as Tea Hawaii's oolong or white tea (which I can't WAIT for!), but it's definitely up there. And for a lazy brewer like me, no real care needs to be take for it.
I'm not crazy about this tea. The further I got down in my cup, the more I liked it. I did pick up a note of watermelon, but my intial sip had a strong hay taste.I may not have gotten the water temperature right. The bag said 65C which is only 149F. I brewed at 175F.
This is an incredible tea, so fresh, lively and unique. I don't think I have ever had a green tea with such a distinctive flavour; the watermelon was so prominent and there were subtle refreshing notes of cucumber. It was a bit drying on the palate, but perhaps that was the way I brewed it; other than that I am completely blown away and want to go and visit Hawaii as soon as possible!!
@markporter Good point. Our brewing 'instructions' are guidelines, really. Ultimately each tea-drinker will have preferences as to how they like their tea brewed.
@lazy_literatus Speaking of American teas, have you tried the Charleston Tea Plantation's first flush?
@sfugarino I thought about your comment when I tasted this tea for the first time this morning, and I can see what you mean about the slight hay taste, however I think you are right that you may have brewed it slightly hot, used too much tea or left it for slightly too long. I love green tea, but I find the taste experience can vary dramatically based on those 3 things. I also find most green teas have a slight vegetal taste, which is part of their character, and makes me feel super healthy when I'm drinking them!
@sfugarino I have not tried their first flush. The only Charlestons I've had were the American Classic and Governors Gray.