Hawaii-Grown Black

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Black Tea
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Edit tea info Last updated by Jason
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205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 45 sec

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19 Tasting Notes View all

  • “I’m having a lot of trouble describing this tea. It is so unlike any other black tea I’ve ever had. It’s sweet, but a dark sweet, like grilled and sugared fruits. It’s got a bit of raw sugar or...” Read full tasting note
  • “This smells like Hawaii. I’ve been spending time there regularly since I was kid, and was overwhelmed by memories in a Proustian moment when I opened the packet of tea. Warm rain, damp earth,...” Read full tasting note
  • “Hey Steepsterites. Do you remember me? No? That’s cool. Can’t say I blame you. Anyway, I hope all has been well in the Steepsterverse. I poked around a few times during the frenzy that was the...” Read full tasting note
  • “Thanks to Ian for sending me this one. Sometimes you need put all formality aside and just say DUDE! I have to be honest I’ve been giddy about getting to try this one. I have had pure Hawaiian...” Read full tasting note

From Samovar

Origin: Hawaii Island, Hawaii, USA

Flavor Profile: 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.

Tea Story: Samovar is the first tea company in the world to retail Hawaii-Grown Black outside of Hawaii. A man named John Cross cultivates it from tea plants that his father planted as an agricultural experiment 15 years ago.

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 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.

The soil is particularly suited to tea production, as it is both fertile and acidic. At Samovar, we feel this new terroir is a must-try for any tea aficionado and for those interested in buying domestically-grown tea, and are also proud to offer Hawaii-Grown Oolong.

Samovarian Poetry: Lush green islands yield a lush black tea.

Food Pairings: The warm, clean flavors of our Hawaii-grown black tea pair well with roasted, salted pecans, subdued lemon custards, British “teacakes” (treats akin to Mallomars) and milk chocolates with sea salt.

About Samovar View company

Samovar's is dedicated to preserving the simplicity and integrity of the tea traditions and inspiring people to practice peace through drinking tea.

19 Tasting Notes

911 tasting notes

I’m having a lot of trouble describing this tea. It is so unlike any other black tea I’ve ever had. It’s sweet, but a dark sweet, like grilled and sugared fruits. It’s got a bit of raw sugar or almost caramel flavor to it too that makes it cuddly. There’s something that’s maybe like a sweet rye bread. Or not. It’s just so hard to peg the flavors! It brings to mind Samovar’s Royal Garland a bit as far as overall taste profile – darkly sweet but clean but also a bit cuddly and comfort-food-like. There’s no bite or astringency in the flavor – it’s very smooth if a bit light bodied. I really can’t be more specific about the flavors other to say that it is surprising and different but good. INSANELY good. Like I kind of want to buy twenty pounds of this tea RIGHT NOW just to roll around in and go “OMG, GOOD TEA.” And that’s perfectly normal, right?

I know the rating I want to give this tea but I’m going to hold of for just a bit – I want to try a second steep first to make sure the insane goodness wasn’t a fluke. And why is Samovar out of this one now? Boo! How will I be able to buy my twenty pounds to roll around in?

ETA: Second steep @ 5 minutes. Nope, not a fluke. I just seriously think this is fantastic. It tastes like raw sugar and faint florals with an aftertaste of grilled fruit. I just love this. Though I will say, I made the husband try some and he said, “It is very good, but I just don’t see the fantastic.” That just means more for me!

And again ETA: Third steep at 8 minutes. Very bready and sweet though getting a tad light now. I tried to do a fourth steep at 20 minutes and while it was actually okay tasting, compared to the first three it was very much less than. But three steeps? I can deal with that!

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

I don’t see it anywhere on their site! And looking up the tea via google doesn’t divulge any alternate means of buying direct. I am so sadface.


Wow, this tea sounds like heaven!


I think some of these names are hysterical. Hawaiian-grown black, Yunnan Gold, etc. They make me think of… ahem… other plants. ;-)


Ooh, this tea sounds so yummy!

@Morgana, LOL!


I’m guessing Samovar is out. I hate how they hide the teas they are out of stock on. Boo! But I did read somewhere that they only had 15 pounds of it (thought that might have been for last year?) Based on Dax Pamela Dean’s notes and the fact that the tea grower’s name is the same (Eva Lee), this tea http://steepster.com/teas/tea-hawaii/10398-makai-black is the same one.
LOL! @ Morgana


Is it possible to buy directly from teahawaii.com ?


I checked out the website, and I don’t think you can. But the person who reviewed the Makai Black said her sister emailed the company, and sent a check, and they sent her tea. So perhaps that would work?


What a bummer that this is so awesome and yet there’s apparently nowhere to get it right now. If anyone does try emailing the company maybe we could see if Jason can get some special steepster select arrangement so that anyone who wants to order can?


Well, I emailed the company earlier today so we shall see what they have to say! (Yes, the tea is that good – I’m trying to get more. NOW!)


Cool, eager to hear the response.


Well, apparently they are pretty low tech but they do sell direct! Eva’s email response said that this tea (I didn’t ask about their white or oolong) is $10 per 12g bag with $5 shipping (I’m checking to see if that is a flat shipping rate or a per bag rate) and to send her a check and she’ll send me tea. So pretty expensive for a black tea but yeah, I’m gonna get some. Their email address is teahawaii@aol.com


But it’s still cheaper than Samovar, right? Thanks for this info—I want to buy this too!


Got more information from Eva – all of their teas are the same price ($10/12g) and the $5 shipping is a flat rate for up to 6 bags of tea.
Stephanie, I’m not sure the Samovar price since this was from a swap and Samovar doesn’t have it listed on their website right now. But they had the oolong from the same grower as $25 for 1oz (so 23g) and direct would be $20 for 24g (plus shipping for both). So yep, a tiny bit cheaper. But more importantly – IN STOCK! YAY! :)


Thanks Auggy :)


No problem! Especially since I already sent her my check so I feel confident that any potential Steepster rush on this tea won’t make it sell out before I get my share. ;)


Hehe re the rush. Are you going to try her other teas as well?


I’m going just for the black this time. I’ve had a sample of last season’s oolong (and have another sample of this season’s that I’ve yet to try) and it was tasty but nothing like this black tea. She’s got a white tea, too but I’ve never been a huge white fan. But I have heard good things about the oolong so I might end up regretting that decision – but it just means I’ll have to order from her again, darn it! :)


Auggy, you are heroic. Thanks for the information!


Yay! And no problem – Dax Pamela Dean did most of the work! :)

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237 tasting notes

This smells like Hawaii. I’ve been spending time there regularly since I was kid, and was overwhelmed by memories in a Proustian moment when I opened the packet of tea. Warm rain, damp earth, trade winds, and tropical softness are all in there, somehow, magically. The leaves are huge and dark, their twists unfurling majestically in the hot water.

Several steepings all reveal intense sweetness, a definite roasted sweet potato warmth, maltiness and a little bit of roastiness. No astringency or bitterness at all. I don’t think I’ll ever put milk, cream, or sugar in this – I just want to taste the tea and nothing else.

I’m already alarmed at how quickly and easily this 25g pack could be used up, and in the back of my mind I’m trying to do cost/cup calculations based on multiple infusions to justify getting more…

205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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260 tasting notes

Hey Steepsterites. Do you remember me? No? That’s cool. Can’t say I blame you.

Anyway, I hope all has been well in the Steepsterverse. I poked around a few times during the frenzy that was the final leg of the semester and saw that I missed a few contests, the start of a book club [how fantastic, btdubs] and the NYC meet up. Looks like y’all have been having a blast!

So yes, I actually only have a week before summer session starts up and life gets crazy go nuts again, but I did want to drop in and say that this tea has been maintaining my morning to afternoon happiness levels a really long time. Like, since the last time I wrote a Steepster log, easily. I received some when I went out to San Francisco and, while I was expecting it to be lovely and tasty because I enjoy the oolong grown on the same farm, I was NOT expecting it to be the extravangelical [not a word] explosion of starchy sweetness and tropical florals that it is. Hear my words: YOU SHOULD DRINK THIS TEA.

Okay, I’m about to watch a movie that has subtitles in it, so I need to go pay attention, but this tea has totally earned a 100 in my book.

Boiling 3 min, 30 sec



Oh my god, it’s the famous takgoti!! (Of course with a Samovar review, after a long absence ;) ). Welcome back! I enjoy reading your notes! :)


I might have contacted the grower in Hawaii about getting more of this tea after sampling what you sent me. This tea is awesome. ♥


Welcome back! I think we just barely overlapped, I started showing up here around the time things got crazy for you. Nice to “meet” you.


Yay! Good to hear from you again!


you’re back! woot


Good to see a post form you!


Takgoti who? ;P


I’ve been keeping your spirit alive by drinking the sample teas you sent :) Good luck wit the rest of the semester!!!


Stranger Danger! Stranger Danger! lol…nice to see you peek in on us! :)


Thanks a ton for the review I have been thinking about buying this tea for awhile.


Good to see you around again! Your reviews are the best.


I feel so very loved! The semester is over and I have been soaking in every bit of weather that I can outdoors [more rain than I’d like, but I’m not complaining too hard as today is lovely], but luckily this cafe has wireless internets.

I look forward to diving back into the Steepster pool, as this summer promises to be full of some free time. But, thank you, thank you for the comments, you beautiful people!

[@_morgana_ Nice to meet you, too!]

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377 tasting notes

Thanks to Ian for sending me this one. Sometimes you need put all formality aside and just say DUDE! I have to be honest I’ve been giddy about getting to try this one. I have had pure Hawaiian kona and it is one of my favorite treats to have in the coffee world. I love my coffee just as much as I love my tea. So my expectations are high knowing the quality that comes from the Island state. Not to mention an American tea that can stack up to teas that have been produced for thousands of years in other countries. The dry leaf is intriguing. There is a sweet aroma emanates almost like caramelized sugar. The tea reminds me a lot of of Dawn(Arunachal Pradesh) from The Simple Leaf. This is a fabulous tea. Second steep with dinner of Salmon and Boxty(Irish potato pancakes). Great


I have been eye this and the oolong for awhile now. I on the fence on if it is worth the price.

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4843 tasting notes

Oh yum! Now I can see why everyone loves this tea. It’s amazing! Sweet, rich and flavorful! LOVE this!

Happy Happy Joy Joy!


Gotta get this on the wish list: I don’t think I’ve read anything but rave reviews!


It is so good… it is teagasmically amazing.


YES on the list!!


Bur I wish I could get that 25% off code from Samovar to work! Darn! Maybe I am just too late..


I think you’re too late… it was through yesterday, if I understand correctly.

Geoffrey Norman

Man…it’s pricy.


oh well!


I soooooo want some of this. Need to get drinking on my current stash though :(

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6768 tasting notes

Okay…so…I will also post this review under the Tea Hawaii Listing…

I received this ROCKSTAR Tea from Auggy! Woot Woot!!!!

I will agree with others in saying that this is – by far – a black tea of it’s own! It’s in a completely different category! It’s wonderful BUT…it’s certainly NOT your stereotypical Black Tea!

The leaves are glorious! They are on the biggest leaves I have EVER SEENEVER! They are FAB! And SCREAMING for multiple infusions!!!! The very slight sweet smell of the tea is barely there and it’s a light and mellow yet pleasant and sweet and juicy taste. In a way I am thinking about ROCK CANDY from the 80s…you know…on the stick!? But I can also comprehend the Rye-Bread comparison made by a few others. The product description from the company says roasted sweet…when I first read that all I could say is “REALLY?” but the more I drink it the more it makes sense! I suppose as an after taste and after thought I can taste the caramel notes.


I just don’t know…there are some things that throw me for a loop – but in a good way!!! Trying to figure out HOW this tea is done so well and why more people haven’t tried it or even heard of it…just might have to be added to that list!

I’m going to infused the EVER-LIVIN’ out of these leaves…so stay tuned for the multiple infusion notes!

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

Okay…FINE…I gave in…I upped the rating…How could I resist!? I mean…this is so unique…so much in a class of it’s own…I can’t compare it to ANYTHING…so…there you have it folks!

RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

I think I need this tea!


oooh, rock candy on a stick. i remember it well. :)

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119 tasting notes

Le Sob

I didn’t have as much left of this as I thought :‘( In fact, I only had about 1 teaspoon left, and I brew with 12 oz, so I made sure to use EXACTLY boiling water and I steeped for 5 minutes instead of the recommended 2-4 so I could be sure to get as much flavor as possible out of this. On the plus side, I’m all caught up with the backlogs I wanted to do! So that’s good. I don’t know what you guys do, but I have my separate tea cupboard and then whatever tea I want to drink and review, I put it out on top of my counter (separated by variety) and then when I drink something, I either review it or if I don’t have time to review it at the time, I set it aside and that’s my backlog pile (for those who were interested).

Alright, SO. Now that I’ve successfully rambled on, onto this tea. There was a brief period where a lot of people were raving about the Hawaii-Grown Oolong tea from Samovar, and I sadly don’t have that one. But, I’m in a straight-black mood today and I went looking for a Ceylon to drink (which sadly, I don’t have :( I’m going to order from Upton soon and they have a bunch I’ve been wanting to dry!), when I saw this one and wanted to try it! I think the concept is really interesting plus it sounds yummy, so I brewed it up.

This one smells really good. Like sweet with an almost caramel-y note in it. Maybe a bit of rye? I’m not so good at describing scents…. Something to work on! Oh. My. Goodness. This one is so good! I can’t even! This is so deliciously sweet and mild. Someone described this as sugared and grilled fruits and that’s so true! It’s a nice, dark fruit taste. I also get a kind of creamy note on the finish. There’s a little astringency, but it’s not unbearable.

Oh yes, this one is super tasty! This one is going on the shopping list (which is waaaaaay too long)!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec
Daniel Scott

You don’t drink tea until you’re ready to review it, is that what you mean? Because I do that. If I only have one cup’s worth left, I refuse to drink it unless I’m either sitting in front of Steepster, or I’ve given up on something to say about it.

I don’t know, there are some teas that I just can’t say anything about beyond, “tastes like tea?” Yeah, I need to work on that too.


I try not to drink new teas if I KNOW I don’t have time to review them, although it doesn’t always work out (in fact, most of the time it doesn’t). If it’s a tea that I’ve had before and reviewed before, I’ll drink it no matter what.

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328 tasting notes

Best tea ever! But why does it have to $25 for 25 grams? I could drink this every day! It is naturally sweet w/a starchy background. Oddly I detect a subtle sugar cane (like the kind that you chew and suck the sugar out of….) – yes that is what is tastes like- the starchy flavor of sugar cane.

Been trying shorter steep times: 30 sec, 1 min, 1,5 mins. – 2 tbs, 16 ozs. So far, flavor is strong.


Sounds like I’ll have to try this next time I go to Samovar.

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280 tasting notes

I received this from Geoff via seykayay — thank you both!

As everyone else has said, this is quite a unique tea (thanks LiberTeas for enlightening me on italics). The closest tea to it in my experience is Mellow Monk’s Top Leaf. No, of course that’s an entirely different tea. However, this as well as the top leaf opened with a very strong earthy note that to me, honestly made me think of their growing regions (both of which, Hawaii and Aso, are volcanic).

Besides that strong earth ‘volcanic’-seeming flavor, I felt like it was pretty smokey. People have mentioned it being like grilled fruit, but I unfortunately didn’t get the fruit part. I detected a very subtle aroma of fruit in the wet leaves (which yes they were pretty, whole, and large), and immediately hoped it would be present in the flavor/aroma of the tea. Alas, I pretty much got the grilled part and none of the sweet or fruit.

It was a little starchy after the grilled/smokiness faded. Unlike other people, this actually went for 3 full steepings: 1TB leaf, 4oz water (each time), 4 mins, 2 mins, and 5 mins.

Being that this is quite an expensive tea, I wouldn’t buy it because I didn’t love it (but I did enjoy it). At the same time, it was really a fun one to get to try. Thanks again for those who shared with me!

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec
Geoffrey Norman

How DO you do italics on this thing?


Just add _ before and after the words for italics!
(and just in case, just add * before and after the word(s) for bold!

What I’m really curious about, and haven’t learned, is how people make really really small text in the middle of their review.

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247 tasting notes

Tea Note #100! And what a beautiful one it is. Although I’ve had a fairly interesting black tea from time to time, I tend to prefer flavored blacks as I’m not such a fan of traditional black teas. This tea, however, has changed my thinking. It is the most extraordinary black tea I’ve ever experienced.

These leaves, when dry, are like a huge tangled mass of extraordinarily long black fingers that cling to one another. They’re beautiful and almost a deep violet-black color. They remind me of ravens’ feathers. The scent didn’t remind me of anything other than what I’d pick up as a regular black scent. Perhaps very slightly peppery, but that could have been my imagination as I was thinking of a way to describe the color and pepper came to mind.

205/30 sec – The flavor is simply extraordinary. It is amazing! I love it. Really. It’s a rich flavor with an almost honey-like sweetness, kind of a dulce de leche flavor without the fullness. Raisins. I can taste raisins and I think that’s the flavor that fills my mouth first and most fully. There’s a very slight spiciness to it and I’m thinking that may be that pepper scent I picked up earlier. There is NO bitterness to it at all. It is slightly vegetal. It’s a really wonderful black tea. It is an expensive tea, but it’s such a wonderful treat.

My second steep of this tea will be for about five minutes, which, for me, is really going out on a limb. I detest bitter black tea, but having read the other reviews, I get the impression that this one will not let me down.

Update: I just tried the resteep at 4.5 minutes and I’m not liking it as much. I’m getting a marked astringency although no bitterness… yet. I think it makes sense as the shorter steep time pleased me so much. Samovar recommends 45 sec for the first steep, but as the Breville only works in 30 sec increments, I went with the lower time.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec
RachanaC (Rachel)-iHeartTeas

Congrats on #100! What a great choice for a tea too.


Happy #100!!!!!!!!!!!

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