by Christi Young
Just a handful of farms grow the camellia sinensis plants in Hawai‘i, most taking to the cooler temperatures and climate in the mountains of the Big Island and Maui. Maui Tea Farm started with seedlings in 2013 and just recently expanded to a 14-acre farm on the road to Haleakalā National Park. The new location gave owners Alex and Andrea de Roode the space to start their own tea tours, which launched this summer, giving visitors a glimpse into the unique topography that lends its flavors to their locally produced, organically grown brews.
There are two options: The shorter Meet the Tea tour and the longer Tea Lovers tour which includes a tasting of five of the couple’s teas. You’re likely to find Alex or Andrea themselves leading the small groups and adding their own perspectives to the chat; Alex has a background in sustainable agriculture and renewable energy while Andrea is a registered dietitian nutritionist. (Andrea’s day job is at Maui Memorial Medical Center where, she says, people often stop to ask if she is the person they see smiling and picking tea on social media.)
For the hourlong Meet the Tea tour, you’ll start in the gazebo for introductions and to admire the view from 4,500 feet above sea level. Then, you’ll walk down grass and dirt paths to the garden to see, touch and even pick the camellia sinensis, the plant which is processed into white, green or black tea. (Drinks made by steeping other dried plants, spices and fruit are technically called tisanes.) Along the way, visitors will also learn about the other botanicals growing there including māmaki—which is also cultivated for the farm’s caffeine-free māmaki drink—olives, peaches, coffee and the native ʻōhiʻa lehua blossoms. You’ll return to sample two of the de Roodes’ teas including their small-batch Haleakalā Black, which is 100% grown and harvested by hand at Maui Tea Farm.