Big Island Tea retails for $4800/lb at Harrods
Big Island Tea just sold its first crop of tea to Harrods, the luxury retailer in London. The Harrod's retail price for this Hawaii grown tea? 6,500 English pounds per kilogram. That's about $4,800/lb. (As a point of reference, the most expensive tea at Tea Farm Cafe tops out at around $100/lb).
It's a lot to pay for tea, but Lalani and Co., a London tea company that "discovered" Big Island Tea, thinks it's worth it. "Stunning and distinctive," read Lalani and Co.'s tasting notes. "Rose-honey-nectar sweetness and intense heady florals. Perhaps the finest black I’ve tasted."
The leaves are hand-picked, hand-rolled and hand-fired by Eliah Halpenny, who owns Big Island Tea with her husband, Cam. She sees this as a "coup for Hawaii-grown tea and hopefully will open more doors for other tea growers." (Hawaii-grown tea is on the rise, though still far behind coffee. About 11 acres in Hawaii are currently in commercial tea production.)
The Halpennys planted their first seeds in 2002. Seven years later, Lalani and Co. approached Big Island Tea after reading of its organic, sustainable farming practices. These practices and the labor that comes with it contribute to the high cost. Eliah says, "although [the retail] price is quite a mark up from our selling price, we sold for the price we felt would be fair trade. Trying to sell locally and [on the] Mainland, we were met with resistance to our asking price. I reminded potential buyers that we could not pay workers $2 a day."
Big Island Tea signed a mutual exclusivity deal with Harrods, so the tea is not available here. But if you're interested in cupping other unique and rare teas, you might consider joining the Hawaii Tea Club, organized by The Tea Chest. About two years ago, The Tea Chest organized a tasting of local teas, including Big Island Tea's.