Makai Black (Sinensis)

Tea type
Black Tea
Ingredients
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Caffeine
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Edit tea info Last updated by sophistre
Average preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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3 Tasting Notes View all

  • “I've been SO EXCITED to get this order in. The recommendations have been so glowing around here that it has been hard not to be curious. What held me back for so long, you ask? Not my...” Read full tasting note
    90
    sophistre 158 tasting notes
  • “I am so pleased to have a chance to try this varietal from Tea Hawaii, not only because I love (love love love) their Assam varietal but also because I’ve got less than 10g of that tea left with no...” Read full tasting note
    100
    aug3zimm 911 tasting notes
  • “There are two version of this in the database, one with a sinensis variety leaf and an assam leaf variety. Unfortunately I have no clue which one of them I actually have so I ended up just picking...” Read full tasting note
    74
    Angrboda 1277 tasting notes

From Tea Hawaii

Origin: Hawaii Island, Hawaii, USA, teahawaii.com

Thanks to the emerging terroir of Hawaii, this black tea’s flavor profile is completely different from that of any other tea. It is tremendously clean, smooth and refined, with no astringency or bitterness even when brewed for long periods. High-quality leaves brew into a crystalline amber infusion. A thin, crisp body yields delicate notes of mugicha (roasted barley tea), caramel, barley malt and rice syrup, with a slight taste of roasted sweet potato. Each sip warms, refreshes and reveals new dimensions of flavor.

A man named John Cross cultivates it from tea plants that his father planted as an agricultural experiment 15 years ago. The soil is particularly suited to tea production, as it is both fertile and acidic. The plants are a Cambodian sinensis varietal, which is thought to be a hybrid of the small-leafed Chinese plants and the larger-leafed Assam varietals. John’s Hakalau Tea Garden is on the slopes of the now-dormant Mauna Kea Volcano. It is located at 900 feet above sea level, and you can see the Pacific Ocean while standing amongst the tea bushes. It is locally known as “Makai Black;” the word “Makai” is Hawaiian for “toward the ocean.”

John cultivates his plants and prepares them for harvest, and then fellow tea grower and processor Eva Lee of Tea Hawaii & Company harvests them, transports them to her farm and hand-processes them overnight with her husband (a potter who creates art for tea and a practitioner of the Japanese tea ceremony) and, sometimes, her daughter (an artist who lives abroad most of the year). Eva feels that Hawaii is the only state in the U.S. that is likely to be able to sustainably produce specialty tea. She said Hawaii’s air, soil and water are amongst the purest on earth. Tea growers in Hawaii do not face many of the environmental concerns of other tea-producing areas, such as typhoons and natural predators, so they can grow teas at lower elevations without facing the wrath of nature.

Eva Lee, teamaster of Tea Hawaii, belongs to a collective of local tea growers that has joined together to promote their products. Eva also processes an Hawaii-grown Forest White tea with leaves from Tea Hawaii Tea Garden and Mauka Oolong with leaves from Volcano Tea Garden. She sees her role as helping growers bring their teas to fruition and customizing teas to suit the needs of tea vendors and drinkers. Now is the ideal time to taste Hawaii-grown tea and provide feedback to suppliers and growers in order to shape the future of Hawaii-grown tea.

About Tea Hawaii View company

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3 Tasting Notes

90
158 tasting notes

I’ve been SO EXCITED to get this order in.

The recommendations have been so glowing around here that it has been hard not to be curious. What held me back for so long, you ask? Not my overflowing tea cupboard (I will let it take over my counter, and don’t care in the least), but my lack of a check book. By the time I finally wrote Eva Lee to inquire as to whether or not her company could take a debit card (they can!), she was sold clean out of the Makai Black in the Assamica varietal, which is (she told me) the tea that all of you lovely steepsterites have been giving such high marks of late. They won’t be harvesting more of that until the fall.

She informed me that she did have the Sinensis varietal on hand, however, and could send it out immediately. How could I not take her up on that? I ordered a few bags of that and one of the Mauka Oolong to try, and spent the last week buzzing around wishing my tea could be teleported here instantly.

The leaves are unusual. They’re long, but not quite as wide as the ones in the picture (to be expected, given the difference in the size of the leaves between the varietals) and much more…squiggly. I have no other word for it. The liquor produced is much lighter (at three minutes)…but because the leaves are so…squiggly…and because I have no scale, I hesitate to say that this is absolute fact, since my estimates could have been off on the quantity of leaf.

How should I describe what I’m tasting? It’s difficult to sort out. I don’t know that I can recall what barley on its own is like, which may be an obstacle to writing a proper review. The comparison to roasted sweet potatoes is instantly identifiable, but there’s something in the aroma that is…more than that. I thought about it for a long time before deciding that it reminds me a little of the smell of miso soup…

Or maybe it’s soba…

Or maybe it’s both.

My second steep — something I don’t usually try with blacks save for the first time I have them, just to see if it works — the leaves literally inflated to fill my little wire basket infuser (because, yes, I broke my glass one, sadface). They fattened up, saturated, unfolded to fill every last bit of space like they had pretensions toward being oolong leaves. I have to think that a longer steep time than 3 minutes for the first infusion would produce a different cup than the one I had, therefore, and am eager to try it…or upping the leaf quantity, one or the other, though I’m not sure where I would expect them to fit had I added any more.

This cup is darker than the first. I’m not sure on my steep time, because I was too fascinated by the leaf expansion to pay proper attention, but it smells delicious. The ‘roasted’ part of ‘roasted sweet potatoes’ is much more prevalent now.

Anybody who has the assam varietal who feels like parting with some of it in exchange for some of mine, lemme know. I’m eager to try more of what they have to offer!

Rating is soft for now, cos I left this review sitting all day after getting distracted by other things.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Lori

Ok- I will give this one a try… I have been meaning to order as well so I am glad they take a debit card…Such a pain mailing a check and fall will be here before we know it..

Auggy

Interesting about the two different varietals! Any idea if there is an easy way to know the difference between the two? I’m sooooo tempted to order some of this – I’ve gone through my previous order so quickly I’m going to need to hide the last bag for a bit so it will last! :)

sophistre

I don’t. I didn’t realize that there was an actual distinction between the two until she mentioned it. From what I’ve read, the difference between the Assamica varietal and the Sinensis varietal is that the Assamica leaves cultivated in India have grown to be significantly larger in size/shape, and that the Sinensis leaves are smaller. Technically, of course, this makes the Assamica leaves an ‘offshoot’ of the Sinensis. It’s all technically, scientifically, still Sinensis, but one is Sinensis Sinensis and one is Sinensis Assamica. I learn something new every day!

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100
911 tasting notes

I am so pleased to have a chance to try this varietal from Tea Hawaii, not only because I love (love love love) their Assam varietal but also because I’ve got less than 10g of that tea left with no hopes of buying more until next year. So much thanks to sophistre for the chance to try this one!

The leaves of both types are long, twisty and defy any measurement other than weight. But these seem to be a bit thinner and a little blacker than their Assam cousin’s. The smell of the dry leaves is different too, but it’s hard to exactly pinpoint how. This one might be a little lighter/higher in tone.

Brewed up, the smell is totally wow. While the Assam seems to be rye bread syrup, this one is more yeasty and sweeter. Sweet potato preserves spread over fresh baked bread or maybe sweet potato casserole. The sweetness coats my mouth in a very delightful way.

Compared to the Assam varietal, this is lighter in flavor (in overall tone that is, not intensity as it is very flavorful) and sweeter. The other is probably the richer, darker flavor and a bit heavier feeling. So they are fairly different though there are similar notes, particularly bready and sweet (though different types of both). It’s hard to pick a favorite, though so I’m giving the same rating for now. That might change since I’m determined to have a side-by-side taste test to figure out which of these beauties I love more. Of course, regardless of the answer to that one, it still means that, yeah, Tea Hawaii is going to get more of my money.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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74
1277 tasting notes

There are two version of this in the database, one with a sinensis variety leaf and an assam leaf variety. Unfortunately I have no clue which one of them I actually have so I ended up just picking one, and this one seemed more standardised.

Right, I’m a little distracted while writing this as I’m sharing it with the boyfriend and trying to have a conversation of sorts at the some time.

The aroma of the cup is a bit agricultural, sort of spicy and hay-like. A bit grassy as well.

Flavour-wise, it’s gone a bit cold because as mentioned, I’m distracted, but I seem to find some honey-ish and raisin-y notes in here. A bit floral on the finish, but I’m plocky plocky wock-wock (The boyfriend told me just fill it in with that when I couldn’t remember the last half of that sentences). Anyway, a little floral on the finish, but not overly so.

I’m wondering actually if I picked the right variation from the database at this point because the honey and raisins remind me rather of assams when done right.

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