Posts Tagged ‘Mauna Kea Tea’

Reflecting on 4 months on Hawaii

It surely is time for a new post! It’s been a busy last month in Hawaii wrapping up projects around the farm, harvesting tea, and packing for home! So here is a brief reflecting on my last four months.

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I’m actually back in Vernon for the time being catching up with friends and family before going off on my next tea excursion. This time, to the far away lands of Asia and into the rural mountainsides for some much larger-scale tea farming and processing.


Planting A New Tea Bed

Planting a new tea garden this week and next. It’s on a slope as you can see from some of the pictures, so I built a simple A-frame level from pvc pipe, string, and a plumb bob to walk across the surface and find the contour line.

nothing beats planting tea on the sunny hill-sides in Hawaii.


Brandy Oolong Kombucha and Sweet Roast Lei Cha

On the left, we have Lei Cha, a ground up medley of nuts, seeds, grains, tea, and tea powder brewed in hot water traditionally drunk by the Hakka people of Taiwan. (Click here to see my previous post on Lei Cha with pictures).

I used sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, Taiwanese high mountain Jade Oolong Tea, and ground up Sweet Roast (to a fine powder) from Mauna Kea Tea. These ingredients are ground together using a mortar and pestle. This hearty broth is actually quite enjoyable and filling. The batch I made here is a little more crude than the Lei Cha we made in Taiwan, but it’s a good Hawai’i version to start with :)

Pictured above right and below, I made some Kombucha using Ruby 18 Brandy Oolong Tea from Taiwan. Kombucha is a fermented beverage often made with tea. It becomes quite carbonated and takes on a sweet and sour or sugary and vinegar-like taste. This particular batch was my first and it turned out great. I’ve now tried other batches with different tea, but Ruby 18 has proven superior and I will continue to ferment with it.


Life at Mauna Kea Tea Garden

Well, I’ve resided at Mauna Kea Tea for over a month now and haven’t given a proper post on my experience here.

My Mountainside home

On my second evening at Mauna Kea Tea Farm, I repositioned my tent after an all-night rainfall the previous night. Still not enough rain coverage, I soon after set up another tarp and have stayed dry ever since between these two strawberry guava trees. It’s pretty wet up here at 2000 ft above sea level (not to mentioned it is the rainy season in Hawai’i)

This morning moon is only visible from the farm at certain lunar intervals. I’ve only had a chance to follow the moon, and it’s moving all over the place! Notice the tall-growing grasses (sudan I believe) between tea rows. This is an attempt at cover cropping to out-compete against other weeds, develop soil structure, and add biomass in the form of green mulch when we cut them back.

Typical BreakfastA typical breakfast (only now save the oatmeal). Usually just a medley of fruits; papaya, banana, foraged avocado, raisins, and sometimes some sprouts – all in an attempt to incorporate more raw food meals into my lifestyle. I’ve also got a published article on cover-cropping. There’s a great library accessible to wwoofers at Mauna Kea covering topics on soil, natural farming, microbes, mycelium, mushrooms, cover-cropping, mulching, biology, etc., the list goes on.

Welcome to our humble home at the base of the property! This is what a raw-food kitchen counter looks like! It’s also where we cook (or un-cook), relax, stay out of the rain, and mainly read; many many hours of silent reading goes on in here…Electricity is minimal and solar-supplied, but all we really need it for is light in the evening.

The propane heated shower

The amazing composting outhouse. With the right amount of applied saw-dust and EM (Effective Micro-organisms) our waste breaks down at an alarming rate, and without the smell. It’s so effective the rising waste is hardly detectable and we won’t have to remove it for a long time.

A couple lunch favourites.

A new section of garden J ready to be planted.

 This has already been planted now by the other wwoofers. I’m currently working on different  tea bed on quite a slope. I’m learning about contour planting to help prevent erosion during water run-off and for ease of harvesting. Without any fancy leveling equipment, I’m simply using a handheld level and properties of right angle triangles to create level rows of tea.

Oh Great Ohia!



After a machine operated cut-back, I finish off the job by hand hedging to create a nice level plucking table for next Springs’ flush.

Natural Farming is host to a concert of symbiotic relationships!

 I believe this is some kind of  fungi called cordycep that inhabits the host and messes up its metabolism, killing the host and then fruiting from the inside.

Lovin' Life and Livin' Love at Mauna Kea Tea!





Amatuer Tea Processing: A Day In The Life

Huh, well wordpress has implemented a new gallery interface, that apparently doesn’t show the descriptive text associated with each picture… Here is a link to my facebook profile with the same album and all of the descriptions for each picture.



Mauna Kea Tea: Wwoofing

What makes wwoofing a particularly enjoyable sojourn, is that we are exposed to the farming environment without all of the major obligations of owning a farm! Some people might envision farming as simple, stay-at-home, honest work that puts money in the bank and food on the table. Sounds great right? Until you have all of these papers to sign, certifications to acquire, acres to manage, bills to pay, kids to look after, neighbors to deal with, cars to buy, emails to write, <insert obligation here> – you know, the typical daily chores that amass and consume our lives if we choose to let them. This is not the case for wwoofers. We get to enjoy farming for its fantasy, without the obligations – not to say this job is easy. Darn those freeloading wwoofers without their obligations!! Get a job already!


Here, I can sit down on this mountainside in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, eschewing life’s conventional struggles and chewing food forty times to the mouthful. On some days, I might ponder what to make for my next meal. On other days, sometimes I forage for seasonal foods along the mountain roadside; avocado, loquat, macadamia, Brazilian cherries, guava, and citrus are ripening as we speak. You might think to look up for fruit in fruit-bearing trees, although looking to the ground reveals the hidden truth! Here, I can listen to nature; with wind so strong and trees so old, She howls. And, on the best of nights, I can sit outside by candlelight, drinking tea and cracking macadamia nuts under the influence of the moon. All the while learning about and living sustainably, practicing natural farming, managing healthy soil structures, and living in a simple and humbling environment. Like Do-Nothing Farming, it seems paradoxical that less is more. Doing nothing (or having a small input) can have a high yield, a grand outcome – and that’s not to say it isn’t hard work. It is to say that I can sit down and enjoy a cup of tea while Nature does what we think we need to improve upon, but you can’t improve upon Nature; Nature does it best.


“We have come to a point at which there is no other way than to bring about a “movement” not to bring anything about.”

– Masanobu Fukuoka



Mauna Kea Tea: “Do Nothing Cooking”

In learning more about Natural Farming or “Do-Nothing” farming, I’ve also discovered an easier way to cook – not cooking. In the struggle to farm profitably these days, most farmers ask what can I do to make things easier? Whereas the proponent of Do-Nothing farming asked instead, what can I not do (or remove) to make things easier?


In a struggle to make good food out of basic beans and grains, I thought, why do I need to try to make food taste good? What can I not do to make a good meal? If before I thought I had to cook to make good food, then what would not cooking yield? RAW FOOD, which apparently tastes great, in and of itself. In the way Natural Farmers took the farming practices out of farming, raw-foodists took the cooking out of cooking food. There’s really no need to try to make food taste good because food tastes good AS IT IS, as long as one cultivates the attitude and sensitivity to enjoy them. Think of it as eating ordinary foods with an extraordinary sense of perception.


This idea didn’t actually come to me in this way; I was just trying to draw a parallel between Natural Farming and a Raw Food diet (a Natural diet). The other wwoofers here have committed to a raw food diet and have influenced me; that and the terrible dishes I’ve ruined in trying to cook without recipes.  I’ve actually made some great chayote and potato latkes, though…


Not that I’m strictly adhering to a raw food diet, but I’m definitely incorporating it throughout the day and really enjoying it. It just makes sense to eat food raw, as nature provides it? Just for lunch I had red lettuce, raisins, sprouted lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa, carrots, snow peas, beans, chayote, tomato, avocado, cucumber, and macadamia nuts. The food tastes great without having to do anything. It’s not much of a revelation, but the motive behind the intention might be…