Tea Steeped in Cloud Water

Michelle Rose grows and blends specialty tea at Cloudwater Tea Farm on the rainy North Shore. She harvests leaves by hand and handcrafts them into Golden Assamica Black, Twisted Black, Wok Roasted Green, Wai Lani White and Walking Stick Wulong, or oolong in simplified Chinese. She also raises 60 chickens and 27 goats and sells fresh eggs and goat’s milk soap.

What’s growing

Camellia sinensis L, eggs (chicken), milk (goat’s)

Tea

Leaves and buds from an evergreen Camellia sinensis L. are used to make white, yellow, green, oolong, pu-erh and black tea. The three basic kinds of tea — green, oolong and black — result from the degree of fermentation. Green is lightly fermented, oolong is mildly fermented, and black is fully fermented.

While processing young shoots, different degrees of withering, fermentation, heat, and drying result in different types of tea. The fermentation process activates oxidation and enzyme reactions, which are induced by wilting and bruising the leaves. When leaves obtain desirable levels of fragrance and oxidation, the flavor and scent are fixed with heat. Finally, the leaves are shaped and dried.

Dutch colonists in New Amsterdam introduced tea to America in the 1650s and it was first introduced to Hawaii in 1887. Between 1984 and 1994, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer, and Amfac conducted test plantings on Kauai in an attempt to rebuild their lost sugarcane industry.

A&B partnered with Thomas J. Lipton Company and concluded that the high cost of production and low world-market prices made tea crops unprofitable.

In 2004, UH-Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (PBARC), created a value added tea project to promote tea as a niche crop for Hawaii. The Hawaii Tea Society maintains a tea plant distribution program, conducts a growers’ tea competition event, and offers educational programs.

“Hawaii-grown teas are generally quite sweet,” says Michelle, who is listed on the CTAHR Tea Project, “and it doesn’t matter how long you steep them, they’re not bitter.”

Season

It takes seven years to go from seed to harvestable leaves. Starting in March and running through October, Michelle harvests new flush by hand and processes them in five-pound batches.

Preparation

Wai Lani White White tea is an unprocessed tea made with freshly harvested leaves that are dried for three days. The tea is steeped for 15 minutes and smells fresh and floral.

Wok Roasted Green tea is made with leaves that have wilted for an hour after they’ve been picked. Michelle gently rolls the leaves by hand to break up the cell wall. The leaves are roasted in a hot wok for 90 seconds, removed, fluffed and rolled again. She repeats this process 10 times before the tea is dried. This tea steeps for seven minutes.

Walking Stick Wulong is heated before it’s rolled, resulting in layered flavors of ginger, honey and ripe persimmon.

“Wulong is the most elusive tea there is,” Michelle says. “It’s characterized by many rollings and takes 36 hours to make.”

Golden Assamica Black and Twisted Black are hand rolled for about an hour and then heated. The entire process takes 24 hours and produces a robust flavor with a hint of Earth and honey. This tea is steeped for seven minutes.

Health benefits

Since white tea is minimally processed, polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant, are especially strong. ECGC is an phytonutrient that prevents new fat cells from forming and fights signs of aging. Research indicates that these benefits may protect against cancer.

Green tea is rich in the hormone CCK, which is responsible for creating the feeling of satiation. Studies show that drinking green tea may potentially prevent the onset, or slow the progression of, dementia.

Oolong tea’s unique catechin (an antioxidant) and caffeine combination raises metabolism for up to 2 hours after drinking it. Studies show that drinking oolong tea has led to sustained weight loss.

Black tea is full of polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that discourage plaque build-up and bacteria growth in the mouth. Studies show that polysaccharides in black tea have glucose-inhibiting properties that may help to prevent diabetes.

Cloudwater Teacan be found at:

Look for tea at the Princeville Wine Market and eggs and goat’s milk soap at Namahana farmers market (Saturdays 9:30 a.m.) For more information, or to order online, call 652-4201.

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Marta Lane has been a food writer on Kauai since 2010. She graduated from a 12-week organic farming course on the North Shore and went on to become the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture manager. Marta is the author of Tasting Kauai: Restaurants – From Food Trucks to Fine Dining, A Guide to Eating Well on the Garden Island. For more information, visit www.TastingKauai.com.

Tealeaves are often smoked, adding flavor to dishes such as roasted chicken. They’re also used as a flavoring agent to cure fish or brine meat. Strained tea can be used to flavor pasty cream or in baked goods such as quick breads, bread pudding and dessert bars. Since Cloudwater Tea is a specialty tea produced in small batches, I recommend drinking it and using a different tea for this recipe. Serves 4.

2 tablespoons lose green tea

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Ginger, sliced into four 1/2-inch strips

Lemon, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 fish fillets

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/4 cup green onions, chopped

In a small pan, bring two cups of water to a boil and remove from heat. Add green tea and steep for 1 minute. Strain into a bowl and add garlic, ginger, lemon, tamari and mirin. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil. Add fish and sear for 2 minutes, or until browned. Flip, add tea mixture to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes, or until center of fish is opaque and flakes easily.

Serve with steamed or sautéed green vegetables and steamed brown rice. Drizzle poaching liquid and sesame oil over dish and garnish with green onions.

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