Mauka Oolong

Tea type
Oolong Tea
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Grass, Plum, Raisins, Sugar, Flowers, Honey
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Edit tea info Last updated by Pamela Dean
Average preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec 3 g 8 oz / 236 ml

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7 Tasting Notes View all

  • “The very last thing that I should be doing right now is drinking tea. I have had a tremendously difficult time sleeping the last few nights, and this is not going to help. It wouldn’t be so bad for...” Read full tasting note
  • “Another lucky dip. Actually it’s just the first of many but when I took this one I wasn’t convinced it was the one I wanted. I just didn’t want any of the others I randomly picked out either, so I...” Read full tasting note
  • “The small, multicolored dry leaves are curly, but not rolled-up, and smell mossy and fresh. Leaf hairs in the golden brew testify to the youngness of the leaves. In it’s flavor, the base note is...” Read full tasting note
  • “As some one who prefers oolongs with more diversity of flavor notes and less astringency, this is one of my favorite oolongs. A full flavor that never gets too sharp, with a nicely bright yet...” Read full tasting note

From Tea Hawaii

Origin: Hawaii Island, Hawaii, USA,

Because it was grown and processed in Hawaii, this oolong’s flavor profile is a singular experience. The leaves are young, artfully consistent and vibrantly colored with slightly oxidized edges. They brew into a sophisticated, delicate, pale yellow-green infusion. The flavor of the brew is elusive and complex. It’s somewhat reminiscent of a Baochong oolong, but less fruity. It has some of the grassiness of a sencha, but it’s not brothy. It’s flinty, crisp, smooth and cooling, with mild, tropical notes of green papaya. Fleeting hints of pine, evergreen, Kahili ginger flowers (which are locally abundant) and honey add to the complexity of this enticing brew.

This Hawaii-grown oolong is grown at 3,600 feet above sea level near the active Kilauea Volcano’s summit at the Volcano Tea Garden. Locally, this oolong is called “Mauka Oolong.” Mauka means “toward the mountain;” it is a Hawaiian adaptation of the Chinese name “high mountain tea.” As a high-elevation tea and as a Hawaii-grown product, the Volcano Tea Garden oolong has an incredibly pure growing environment and a unique set of weather patterns as the basis for its terroir. The soil is fertile and acidic (precisely what tea plants need) and the water, air and soil are amongst the cleanest on Earth.

Volcano Tea Garden started quite unexpectedly after owner Mike Riley visited his wife, Carol, at the USDA Pacific Basin Agriculture Research Center in Hilo, Hawaii, where she worked. Carol worked under Dr. Francis Zee, who was soon to become a major contributor to tea’s newfound presence in Hawaii agriculture. Dr. Zee had just discovered that his predecessor at the Hilo research facility had planted a row of tea plants there many years earlier. Mike watched Dr. Zee pluck and process a batch of tea, which they drank at the end of the day. Mike was immediately hooked on the idea of Hawaii-grown tea.

Mike harvests the leaves and processes them by hand. He hand-rolls the leaves in muslin cloth and pan-fires the leaves. He repeats the process of rolling and frying about 25 times to produce a lightly oxidized, semi-balled, light-roast oolong in small batches that are under five pounds dry weight each.

Both Mike Riley and Eva Lee of Tea Hawaii & Co belong to a collective of local tea growers that has joined together to promote their products. Although they both work in Hawaii’s higher elevations and Mike’s farm is only four miles away as the crow flies, Eva’s plants flush at different times from his, just as he can feel earthquakes about three minutes before she can. Eva said this is all part of the rhythm of nature that goes on in Hawaii.

Eva also processes an Hawaii-grown Makai Black tea with leaves from Hakalau Tea Garden and Forest White tea with leaves from Tea Hawaii 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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7 Tasting Notes

158 tasting notes

The very last thing that I should be doing right now is drinking tea. I have had a tremendously difficult time sleeping the last few nights, and this is not going to help. It wouldn’t be so bad for me if I were capable of writing creatively when my schedule gets bent out of joint, but it seems to knock the rest of me from kilter as well…but it’s late, I’m sore and headache-ridden, malcontent about another late night. I need to snuggle some tea, and this has been lying around and tempting me.

What a very strange oolong.

First, the leaves.

They don’t look like any oolong leaves I have ever seen before. I will grant you that I am not the most experienced tea-drinker in the world and that there are probably many varieties of oolong that I have yet to try, but these leaves look — I am being entirely literal in my description — like something I might have raked up in the yard in autumn. Not dirty or grungy, mind you — like clean, glossy, well-dried autumn leaves – - but nevertheless very much like that, in many shades of brown, a bit broken, not particularly curled or rolled. They smell wonderful and distinctly oolong-y, more on the green end of the spectrum than otherwise.

The package recommends brewing at 208 for 3 minutes. I don’t usually brew my oolongs with water this hot, but I imagine that Eva knows best, so I followed the instructions. The resulting cup of tea is not, in fact, a light yellow-green as described above, but an amber that could easily have resulted from a very timid Ceylon. As it was initially brewing it smelled very much like a green, floral oolong; those scents have deepened quite a bit to something more earthy, as though the tea is actually really somewhere between a dark oolong and a green one.

The other tasting note’s reference to balsam seems appropos. I’m not sure if it’s balsam or cedar, or the pine in the description, but there’s definitely a forest-y element here. The end of the sip is sweet on the edges of my tongue, and astringent in the center, but the astringency isn’t lingering. It seems almost tart, but I’m not sure that it is. The mouthfeel is full-bodied.

My description is completely inadequate. The tea does not push an overwhelming amount of flavor onto you — I was afraid it was a bit underwhelming — but what flavors are there to be sensed are many and varied, and trying to pin down the elements individually is proving very difficult for me. A complex, unusual oolong for me. Citrus! No, floral! No, pine! No, it smells like butter!


I would like to try it at 175 in order to see if that changes things, but I’m pretty sure that I would be reckless if I had another 16oz cup of tea this late (alright, more reckless), so that is an experiment that will probably have to wait for the morning. Leaving the rating off for now, but it would be set somewhere in green-happy territory, I think.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

Did it say how much leaf to use? This seems like one of those oolongs that you need really hot water and short four ounce steeps. The 3 minute steep recommendation is probably because they expected you to use a large cup (which I see that you did). I think this one is similar to the phoenix oolong where it’s really hard to get right. What you describe seems like it has all the components — dark oolong, astringent, foresty, woody, complex, sweet, floral, buttery. The leaves don’t look like phoenix, but it might be another variation. Who knows!


That’s an interesting thought. The quantity was listed out at 3g per serving, which sounded to me like the standard 1tsp/8oz formula, but I used 6g in 16oz. (Or rather, I should say — I used 2 tsp. in 16oz, so my grams were probably not entirely accurate, since I’ve procrastinated buying a tea scale. I always want to just buy more tea instead!).

I’ll have to order a Phoenix oolong now to try. I’ve been meaning to, but now I’m itching to compare the two. I will say that most phoenix blurbs seem to reference fruit (particularly peach or nectarine) and this had none of that (they mention green papaya, and I could see that — something far less sweet than peaches or nectarines). It may behave very similarly when steeping, though?

Any recommendations, based on your experience with your phoenix oolong?


I guess you could always try close to boiling water and steep this for a quick 30-45 seconds with about 4oz – 6oz of water and take a sip to see how it is. If it doesn’t taste good, add a few more seconds and keep going? I have the hardest time with white teas (silver needles) and this has been what I’ve been doing.

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1353 tasting notes

Another lucky dip. Actually it’s just the first of many but when I took this one I wasn’t convinced it was the one I wanted. I just didn’t want any of the others I randomly picked out either, so I stuck with the first one up.

First thing that struck me about it was the that leaves are not rolled or shaped at all, but simply dried in whichever shape they happened to have. Secondly, I didn’t know from the bag what type of oolong to expect but the the leaves made me think it was probably mostly a green type. But then the picture on the tea here at Steepster clearly shows a dark type. So I’ve decided that it’s probably an in-between thing.

They have a strong aroma, a bit spicy and rather hay-like. It reminded me a bit of Darjeeling, to be honest, which has me a little concerned as I don’t really care for Darjeelings all that much. After steeping I’m a little less worried about that however, as the spicy hay note is gone and replaced by something strongly floral and somewhat fruity. Apples and pears seem to be a common sort of note to find in greener oolongs and this is no exception. There is also something very herbal about the aroma, reminding me a little of chamomile.

Hm, there’s a certain amount of Darjeeling-esque spiced hay in the flavour, but again I’m getting a strong association to sweet apples, or the slight sourness of apple juice perhaps. But that spiced hay note… No, I can’t say I’m really that much of a fan of that. There is an almost minty-cool freshness about the aftertaste that is really quite nice. It lends a perky quality to an otherwise not impressive tea.

I’ve heard super-awesome things about these Hawaiian grown teas in general, but this being my first meeting with them doesn’t have me totally convinced. Or maybe it’s just the degree of fermentation in this particular oolong that doesn’t speak to me. I tend to prefer them either on the dark end of the spectrum or the deep green end. None of this half-way stuff, please.

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215 tasting notes

The small, multicolored dry leaves are curly, but not rolled-up, and smell mossy and fresh. Leaf hairs in the golden brew testify to the youngness of the leaves. In it’s flavor, the base note is balsamic, overlaid by the green mossy-ness and notes of artichoke and red clover blossom. It is like a pouchong, lightly oxidized, but the floral tastes and aromas are more earthy, like the clover blossom, and less like the very sweet flowers we normally call to mind. Because I dabble in herbs, my concept of floral scent has been enlarged to include what I would call (in an aromatherapy context) a mid-note florality. If I sense a top note in this oolong, it is fleeting. This is a subtle tea, which takes some consideration to fully appreciate. I am curious about how this tea would turn out if steeped at lower temperatures, perhaps 190F. I’ll post about it here, if it gives a substantially different result.

And then there is the freshness, even in this oolong. I am sure I have never had camellia sinensis tea this fresh. Which means that it hasn’t had time to absorb the ambient aromas from months of travel, packed in various containers which are opened and closed all over the world. Some of what we taste in tea from China, for instance, is travel-acquired. We may have come to think of it as the taste of tea. Now, having tried three extremely fresh teas from Hawaii, I think perhaps not.

As to how my sister got these Hawaii-grown teas, which are not available anywhere online at this time, to send me for my birthday (thank you, Chrissy!): she reports that she went to and emailed them, then mailed a check. I don’t know what she paid, but if you want to find out how fresh tea tastes (or perhaps how tea really tastes) it may be worth it.

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

Thanks, I’ve been wondering how to order and if this would be a good oolong to give as a gift. Given your joy, I’d say it is. =)

Pamela Dean

I think that a person who has tasted a lot of pure leaf teas will be more likely to recognize the unique qualities of these Hawaii-grown teas. However, the scarcity of this leaf (because production quantities are quite limited) makes it a very special gift, and I think any oolong lover might enjoy this tea, whether or not they know where it comes from. Best wishes to you and to the giftee, as well!

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1 tasting notes

As some one who prefers oolongs with more diversity of flavor notes and less astringency, this is one of my favorite oolongs. A full flavor that never gets too sharp, with a nicely bright yet humble flavor (which some people may interpret as lacking). I can see where the cedar description comes from, but I trust there is a better word. Well done.

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2036 tasting notes

I love that Hawaii has tea production, and I’ve been really impressed with the teas I’ve tried from this company. The black tea was sensational, and the white tea was one I actually got along with. I didn’t rate it off the charts, but I did say that if I bought one white tea, I’d buy the Tea Hawaii.

And this one is right up there, too. So very interesting. Definitely an oolong, but such a different oolong. The dry leaf has no sharpness, and some grassiness. The leaves are not dark, nor are they rolled like green oolongs. So I can’t easily categorize this just on sight.

Gaiwan. 195F. Rinse, 15 second steeps + 5 for each subsequent steep.

The tea is a clear, golden amber color. Also unlike either green or dark oolongs. Kind of its own thing.

The smell and flavor is very sweet and fruity. I smelled and tasted plums, or perhaps a very mild, sweet raisin. It has a sort of a creaminess to it, both in terms of mouth feel but also in terms of suggestion in the flavor. Not vanilla. Just the quality of creaminess.

I agree with the “elusive and complex” description, but I don’t really get “pine” or any of the things the company has it its description. Though there is a cooling aspect in the aftertaste. It’s a sensation, not a flavor.

And I continue to get plum in later steeps. The sugar-forward aspect of the sip falls off after the first steep, but it’s still fruity and very smooth, with no sharp edges.

Every time I have an oolong that isn’t from China or Taiwan, I am hoping it will not be so different as to not be an oolong while having its own uniquely wonderful flavor. Most of the time everything except uniquely wonderful is true.

This one is uniquely wonderful.

Flavors: Grass, Plum, Raisins, Sugar

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863 tasting notes

Well today was a much needed “clean up the tea cabinet day”. As evidenced by this tea, which was unlabeled in a tea bag and OPEN TO AIR (I know- I have no idea what the heck I was thinking either).

I only was able to find out what it WAS through going through past tea orders and looking at the other packages that came with it, and then remembering that I had a coworker who said to me, one day “I think I like oolongs” and well, that must have spurred me giving her the bag with the label/steep instructions and keeping the small amount (OPEN TO AIRWHAT WAS I THINKING??) to get around to eventually.

Ugh, so that was forever ago and I don’t hold out much hope for this sample that was way too pricey to have treated so callously.

The dry leaf didn’t smell like much of anything (gee, I wonder why) but once steeped according to Tea Hawaii’s directions (3 minutes, 208 degrees) the aroma of both the amber liquor and wet leaf are surprisingly nectary/honeyed, a la my beloved dan cong.

First sips are honeyed and grainy, but then there are unmistakable flowers. Honeyed floral notes – if ever I doubted this was an oolong these flavors have convinced me. I normally don’t like floral flavors but it works here. It walks the line between a lighter black tea and brings in the florality of the green oolongs but is its own self. Maybe the fact that it is Hawaiian grown vs. China grown is what makes a difference? I swear the floral character is different – honeysuckle and hibiscus vs. jasmine. Given my love for all things Hawaii, it doesn’t surprise me that I would prefer a Hawaiian oolong if given the choice.

So yes, this is a good tea. Even as weakened as it was – I liked it. I am glad I got just a sample of it though, as I don’t see myself reaching for it regularly. Quite fun to sip on as I work on making heads or tails of my poor neglected tea closet…

Flavors: Flowers, Honey

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

I have not had any teas from Hawaii, and that is just criminal, this seems like quite the intriguing tea!

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85 tasting notes

This oolong comes by way of my Bosses who recently toured the tea gardens of Hawaii. The leaves look like a a cross between mao cha and a lazily rolled oolong. Wet leaf aroma smells like a medium roasted Tie Guan Yin and brews a light amber similar to a Bai Hao oolong. After the first infusion, the roasty qualities fall off completely and leave the more floral notes I would expect from some high mountain (volcano) teas. The body of the tea I would describe as being more similar to a Bai Mu Dan than anything else. The flavors are smooth and a little dry, although not as dry as the other hawaiian teas I tasted (maybe it’s my water?) there’s hints of butter and a bit of oats or maybe a barley like taste. Interesting to say the least, I’m about to post a more detailed version of this tasting on my blog with some pictures added.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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