By Kenneth Cannata
The sun began to rise and I with it. My current lifestyle is an exercise in regularity and balance. “Early to bed early to rise…” goes the saying. Admittedly, it wasn’t all that difficult seeing as we had a final roasting to do and a tea tasting to enjoy! We cupped seven or so different teas all before they got their final touches from the farmer. I must say, this was an intensive learning experience. If you weren’t a bit crazy about tea, then you probably wouldn’t be inspired to go through the gauntlet of freshly made green teas. I was one hundred percent into it. This part of the journey was heavily experiential and I don’t think recreating it in words here will do that process justice. The main point was that the climatic conditions at harvest, withering, killgreen, rolling, drying, and roasting were all laid bare in the brew. If you know what to look and taste for, then you know how to understand the tea. Because of these factors, it is sometimes difficult to even prescribe a label such as green or oolong.
What if there were a tea that didn’t quite fit those categories? What I call green tea could also be called an oolong due to factors of its processing. That may be beyond our topic of conversation here, but I want to impress the point that Taka was continually bringing to light the challenges latent and integral to understanding tea. After much drinking and jubilation, I began my trip back to the dry side of the island, having fully exercised the muscles of my body, mind, and spirit.
Back on the Mainland
Now here I am a week later, drinking the tea I made from pluck to pour. I really thought it wasn’t going to be that great, but if I am objective (and I think I am), then this is really solid tea. I must also say that the raw material is of a seriously high quality. Imagine pure, organic Hawaiian soil that has been maintained naturally. There aren’t enough words to convey the magic of this small tea farm. “Organic” is a bit weak in describing the purity of the soil and intention used in growing the plants. This place is to me a haven for tea, both in a physical sense of all-around great conditions and also in a spiritual sense of integrity of purpose. There was a tangible quality of Ikigai latent not only in the tea I drank but in the conversations with these wonderful Hawaiian hosts.
“Aloha” is a word that does justice to their spirits. Simple and honest as well as warm and inviting. They are for sure true to tea in that sense. When all this has been said and done, I am not only left with tea to drink, but with life lessons to contemplate. I couldn’t thank Taka and Kimberley enough for their time and efforts in giving tea servers and enthusiasts like myself the opportunity to experience what Ikigai truly tastes like. That the taste comes from within oneself is a profound experience one has space to create in a place such as theirs. In my eyes, that is the greatest gift Mauna Kea Tea Farm offers the world. It is the gift of experiencing tea in such a way that it challenges whether or not you live your own life’s true purpose, or, put another way, the gift of an opportunity to ask yourself what your Ikigai is. Why do we wake up every day and get out of bed? As for me, I am closer to answering that question as I drink this tea.
Kenneth Cannata began studying and serving tea at his Alma Mater Dharma Realm Buddhist University in 2005. Since graduating in 2009 with a B.A. in Chinese Studies, Kenneth has deepened his involvement in the tea industry through grassroots efforts in service and education with his company Cannata Imports and volunteering for nonprofit organizations. After working and consulting for many small startup companies, Kenneth spent a year working for Yunnan Sourcing and Taiwan Sourcing, leaders in the international premium tea industry. He is now applying to grad school at DRBU.org, and looks forward to continuing his lifelong passion of learning. Follow his posts on Instagram @KenCannata