A few years ago the talk of Hawaiian grown tea had just began to emerge. Tea plants were being imported from Japan to be grown in Hawaii's rich soil. The Japanese told plantation owners that tea could not be successfully grown at low elevations, but Hawaii's unique lava enriched soil and temperate climate, proved otherwise.
I was fortunate enough at the time to be attending to some family business in Honolulu, so I hopped a flight to the big island, to an area north of Hilo called Onomea Bay. There I met with the plantation owner of Onomea Tea. The owner prepared 5-6 teas for me to taste and we both enjoyed them in the traditional manner which included the tasting/aroma cups. We sat on his lanai surrounded by tea fields, overlooking the ocean discussing tea. It was a perfect day.
Since that time, every season, his tea has been sold out locally with none left for online sales. There is quite a frenzy to obtain this tea by the islanders. Many of the best teas sell out immediately. The locals are dialed in and anxiously await the harvest, and snap them up as soon as they roll out, leaving little for sale. Even some is purchased by Taiwan agents who buy for high demand Taiwanese clientèle with a taste for Hawaiian tea. No wonder it is so hard to procure!
Since that time more and more plantations are springing up and the availability has finally increased enough to make its way to the internet market.
This year I was able to find online another tea grower, with tea available for sale on line! Oddly enough it’s by a coffee company - The Hilo Coffee Mill. I think it is quite good and I have repurchased it and even sent a few samples around. This roasted oolong has a unique flavor, not easily comparable to any other oolongs. The flavor is smooth, non-astringent and tastes of yellow raisins. Very unique, and very tasty, and unfortunately … very pricey. Is it worth it? It is if you are looking for the experience of drinking a Hawaiian grown tea, of course, absolutely. Not something you can afford every day, but definitely worth trying. http://hilocoffeemill.com/100hawaiianoolongtea.aspx