Country of Origin: United States
Leaf Appearance: dark and wiry with golden tips
Steep time: 30 seconds
Water Temperature: 212 degrees
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Over the years I've reviewed over one thousand teas but I never get bored because there's always something new and interesting to explore. This Hawaiian grown black tea is a perfect example of that. It was produced in micro-lots by Onomea Tea Company on the Big Island. This is the first tea of their's that I've tried, though I'm a big fan of other teas from the region. Their farm is located at 200ft above sea level on Onomea Bay. The volcanic soil and abundant rainfall make it a perfect location for growing Camellia Sinensis. This tea was awarded the gold medal in the USA Grown Tea category at the 2017 Global Tea Championships.
I only had a very small quantity of leaf to play around with so I decided to gongfu it. Western-style infusions are probably just as delicious but I really wanted to get a concentrated cup for reviewing purposes. The taste was malty and sweet with a surprisingly fruity background note (lychee?). It maintained good body throughout multiple infusions. There was no bitterness or astringency, even when I extended the infusion time. A few of the reviews on Arbor Teas' website compared this tea to Wuyi oolongs and I can definitely see the correlation. There was a slight mineral quality that you might find in yancha but without a deep charcoal roasting, almost like mao cha.
I love reading the staff perspectives on Arbor Teas' website. Sarah's evocative description of spotting whales during her visit to Onomea makes me want to visit there ASAP. Jeremy's recommendation to drink it "grandpa style" was also intriguing but alas, I did not have enough grams to experiment with that. Aubrey likened it to a Yunnan-grown black tea (though I think there's a pinch of Fujian in there too).
This tea is a bit on the pricey side but I definitely recommend throwing a sample in your shopping cart the next time you place an order. You could purchase this tea directly from Onomea Tea and at first, that seemed like a better option. Taking into shipping costs into account makes it a bit different. Arbor Teas offers free shipping on orders over $60 so I'd say it is worth ordering from them if you want to pick something else while you are at it. Their Organic Silver Needle is also well worth giving a try.