The 2008 World Tea Expo offered its guests the first public tasting of the first teas being commercially grown in the US for the high-end US tea market—the green, white, oolong, and black teas of Hawai’i.

However, the tea brewers sadly had to prepare tea for 50, brewing them at too low of temperature, all with the same water, Western style. I thought this an unfortunate coming out for America’s first boutique tea. So when I read that Narien Teas of Florida began distributing the first commercial batch of Hawai’ian green tea to hit the market, called Kilinoe (“Misty Rain”) I jumped at the opportunity to purchase some and give our homegrown tea a second chance.

Kilinoe is grown on Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawai’i. It’s marketed as sustainable and eco-grown, and from the somewhat cultish WWOOF ads I’ve seen online, I do believe it.

In its foil pouch, Kilinoe smells like sugar and cream with a slight vegetal hint. Its long and twisted leaves gave me impressions visual and olfactory of Yunnan maocha fresh off the straw drying mats.

In the gaiwan, it smells strongly of citrus peel and sweet grass. It tastes much the way it smells at first, developing a richer maocha flavor with citrus highlights. The creamy texture hints at white rice.

The aftertaste, while present, disappears sooner than I’d like. About a 5-cup green, in later infusions it tastes so much like a lighter flavored green pu’er that I find it hard to justify the price: at $1 per gram, Kilinoe costs more than any other green tea that has passed my lips. Similarly, my criticisms of Hawai’ian teas at the Expo included dismay at how light they were.

Still, Kilinoe is a pretty good hand-picked boutique green with soft energy and light, non-fishy, non-chickeny flavors. Fans of green tea would do well to spend the $9 on a sample, if only to see the budding potential of Hawai’i’s boutique greens.

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