Uncommon Herbs, Part One


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[I]n the islands, we brew tea a little differently. At Teas of Hawaii, Hawaii is in our name, so to be true to our state’s dedication to local agriculture, we proudly source our ingredients from right here in the islands. We are lucky to live in a lush place with fertile, volcanic soil, home to world-renowned coffee and hundreds of endemic plant species. By blending our teas in a smaller radius, we get to take part in the island’s locavore devotion, and offer a product that is culturally charged and uncommon to the rest of the world.

One example is coffee cherry tea, or cascara (Spanish for husk), a wonderful tisane with fruity and floral flavors reminiscent of vibrant hibiscus. Though cascara is making waves across the globe, and can be found wherever coffee grows, our Molokai-sourced cascara, we call it Molokai Style Tisane, has a honeyed aroma, ruby liquor, and slightly sweet cranberry finish that is a snapshot of this ten-mile wide, forty-mile long island. We cut the husks after drying to increase steeping surface area and viscosity, and for the aesthetic it provides. Just as green coffee from distant producing countries can carry worlds of contrasting flavors, so is Molokai cascara an inimitable experience. We further enhance that experience by blending our cascara with complementary, locally celebrated herbs.

Hawaii has a rich history of herbal medicine, and with almost all of our ingredients grown locally, we pay homage to the cultural traditions of our native flora. Herbs like lemongrass, papaya leaf, vanilla, and some without English names, like ko’oko’olau and ‘uhaloa, are sourced on Molokai. We also use Maui lavender, Big Island ginger root, and mamaki—utilized by generations of Hawaiian medicine men to purify the blood. Many of these herbs are known locally as ancient, cleansing promoters of good health, but their legacies are still mysterious to those without knowledge of Hawaiian botanics.

Not only are coffee cherry husks brimming with antioxidants and other nutritional benefits, the growth of coffee cherry tea also gives a boost to the specialty beverage market here in Hawaii. Additionally, by sourcing products and services within the closest radius possible, and selling our tea to local gift shops, restaurants, coffee shops, tea blenders, nutritional supplement manufacturers, mainly in Hawaii and the West Coast, we can proudly promote Hawaii as a the herbal eden that it is, and introduce tea drinkers to powerful ingredients they might not otherwise have discovered.

So the next time tea drinkers reach for a rich, stimulating tea, instead of brewing a well-known leaf like rooibos or peppermint, they think “cascara,” or find they crave the sweet synthesis of papaya leaf and vanilla.

—Jessie Ford is the owner of Teas of Hawaii on Molokai.

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