Eliah Halpenny and Dr. Cam Muir are devoted to cultivating and preparing ultra-premium, whole-leaf tea. The couple has recreated the environment to which tea is best adapted; Dr. Muir is a molecular ecologist studying how ecological diversity improves the quality of forest-grown tea. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, the couple started creating their forest on five acres of farmland on the NE slope of Mauna Loa volcano.
Over the last two decades, they have re-established a diverse forest similar to local native cloud forests. They have planted over 6,000 tea trees and have grown over 60,000 tea seedlings to assist new tea farmers. Hundreds of native trees and ornamental plants have also been put into the ground to create a biodiverse rainforest and help wild honeybees. Bananas grown near the tea plantings offer shade and their stalks are used as mulch. Compost and worm castings nourish the soil and help fight plant disease naturally. The farm also incorporates aquaponics into its growing regime. Water from a large fish pond home to hundreds of catfish and koi is used for backup irrigation. The farm is famous for the single small batches of its ultra-premium whole leaf tea, `A`a Black Tea, and Kilinoe Green Tea.
Big Island Tea’s Kilinoe Tea Forest is reopening after a two-year hiatus for group and private tours; diehard tea drinkers can also participate in a day-long green tea processing workshop; or even an intense five-day field class where they learn how to grow tea sustainably, how to hand-pick leaves and process their own whole leaf green and black tea.