Several years ago, I planted some tea. There are not a lot of food-type plants that thrive in the rainforest, probably one of the reasons the old time Hawaiians did not choose to live there. Tea however does remarkably well. All that wetness and shade and the volcanic soil have grown little one gallon sized plants into several very large bushes.
This is a photo from a couple of years back. Since then, the plants have tripled in size. I finally did a small harvest.
I picked maybe a hundred leaves and placed them in a bamboo basket and brought them over to Kohala to dry. I tossed them a few times, and they were drenched in rain once. So tossed some more. I mixed in some hibiscus flower petals and some mint leaves.
Many sites recommend blanching the leaves before making the tea, so I do that. I pour some hot water over them, let them stand a few seconds, and pour off the water. Then I make the tea, with honey.
In wine, there is talk oft times of the terroir, the faint flavor of the earth in the brew. In Hawaii, it is called the aina. The flavor of the aina, the scent and sensibility of that part of the island is clearly discernable in the taste of the tea. It is very pleasing to me, as living here in the desert, it is a nice thing to recall the rainforest so easily.
The best part of all is having these leaves at hand, something I can make and drink of my own efforts and dreams. And knowing there is enough there that I can put together gift tins for my mainland ohana. chee hoo!