In my last posting I shared my experience with making tea—from tea leaves flown in from Hawaii. Often, participants in my tea classes ask if there is any tea grown and processed in the US. There is much curiosity about whether tea can be grown in our country and if so, why we aren’t producing more of it.
There are quite a few places in this country where industrious devotees to tea are growing tea plants and processing tea. The biggest undertaking is on the Hawaiian Islands where the soil, temperature and other optimum tea-growing conditions exist—in fact there are 19 known tea producers in the state. Seventeen of the tea producers are on the Big Island of Hawaii, with one in Kaua’i and one on Maui. It is estimated that ten of these growers/producers are actively processing tea from mature plants with the rest in some stage of initial growth.
All tea processing in Hawai’i is currently done by hand which is time consuming and labor intensive, however it does result in a well-crafted, artisanal product. The specialty tea segment of the tea industry is growing, and, demand for these artisanal teas is expected to increase, however right now it is very hard for growers/producers to start up and succeed—and is truly in a start-up stage. Virtually all of the tea consumption in the US comes from foreign countries, and as we know is dominated by a few very big names. People curious about Hawai’i-grown teas and want to try them can find them available on the web. Many of the producers can be found through the Hawai’i Tea Society at www.hawaiiteasociety.org.
The University of Hawai’i at Manoa in support of the Hawai’i tea industry, published a market feasibility study wherein they summarized findings regarding potential success for Hawai’i grown tea, making recommendations for expansion of this business (much of what I have relayed in this blog came from this publication). There is quite a bit of interesting information in the study and makes for good reading. It can be found at www.cthr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/tea_2011.pdf