I was already hugging them – and receiving a floral garland – before any verbal introduction had even taken place. Michelle and Parker, the two farm owners, picked me up at Lihue (“lee who eh”) airport, Hawaii, where I was to be taken to their farm: Cloudwater. Their Tea Farm is located on the northern coast of the Kauai, the garden Isle of Hawaii.
In my attempts to find work on a tea farm, Asia proved to be a challenge due to language barriers in the rural mountain sides and lack of personal connections in those areas. I recalled that Hawaii had recently established itself as a new tea growing estate, and soon after, found myself wireless connected to Michelle at Cloudwater Tea Farm. Offering my profile as a young willing tea enthusiast, I was met with mutual enthusiasm from the owners at Cloudwater; so here I am today, living, loving, working, and learning – hands on – about agriculture and Tea in the paradise that is Kauai. As my friend back home put it, I’m Loving Life and Living Love.
And why have I chosen a tea farm, in particular? Noticing the ever-growing popularity of tea in the West, and considering my own underlying love of Tea as a material, artistic, and aesthetic beverage – but more importantly as a spiritual shadow in my own life – I wanted first to go back to the roots of tea – meaning the farm – before pursuing a vocation in tea, not at all suggesting the two can’t be one and the same.
Now, very unfortunately, I can’t upload any pictures as of yet because my connecting cable (from camera to computer) is currently in the mail ;) Fearing that readers may not believe my grandiose claims about this farm, I will summarize my experience as creatively, but simplistically as possible.
Arriving on the farm would be – and was – the first time I laid eyes on the very plant that had driven me (or flown rather) to the middle of the gaping pacific ocean. Ms. Camellia Synensis; there she was, growing in north facing columns parallel to the architectural wonder that is Parkers’ farm house – of course, I refer to the tea bush growing on Cloudwater Farm. This was the first time my human senses would perceive Tea in the flush.
Housed in a beautiful two-story guest house, onlooking verdant mountain crags and a stream that surrounds the farm, I settle in and take a peaceful tour. The farm is located at the base of these mountain ranges, which have a curtain-like draping effect of vibrant mossy jungle. The steam surrounding the farm is right out of a zen book on poetry; the birds sing “every little thing is ganna be alright”; the tropical trees and bamboo breeze in the wind; and lo, the sun is out – the sky is blue.
“Is this real?”, I can’t stop thinking to myself.
So lucky am I, not only to be among (very) good company in Kauai, but to be in the presence of Tea among it all.
I begin my first day joyfully picking up deadened lauhala leaves, followed by staking out grids for new tea beds, and then cutting the lawn after lunch. As in a Zen monastery, where one might expect to learn about Zen but instead winds of raking gravel and scrubbing wooden decks, one too must experience labour on the tea farm, only to realize that when those expectations are dropped, mindfully raking gravel is Zen, and picking up deadened lauhala leaves is Tea.
Did I mention I have an outdoor shower within a bamboo grove? It’s pretty luxurious, and tending the wide range of bamboo varieties grown on the farm is too. Not to mention the goats are a gas, and the myriad chickens running free range keep you company all day.
Parker and I ended our day with a drive to Kalihiwai bay for a dip in the waving ocean, while Michelle prepared dinner in the farmhouse kitchen. Such can be life at Cloudwater Tea.
What do you really want, and what really matters?