The Leafies 2022 Special Awards: Gaia – Eva Lee, Tea Hawaii

The Leafies special ‘Gaia’ award is for a tea farm, estate or garden that is demonstrating outstanding environmental stewardship. At our ceremony last year, it was the Co-Founder of Tea Hawaii & Company, Eva Lee, who scooped this award, following a phenomenal 148 nominations and a unanimous vote from our panel of judges.

Environmental stewardship in the tea industry can relate to many factors, from where a tea farm is situated and how it affects the local ecosystem, to the fertilisers used in growing, or the methods used in production. For tea makers, sustainability and environmental initiatives have never been more important. Eva and the team at Tea Hawaii offer a first-class example, which may serve as an inspiration for many more.

Tea Hawaii & Company’s estate resides within the temperate Hawaiian rainforest on the summit of the Kilauea Volcano at 4,000 ft elevation. Eva and her partner Chiu Leong set out with the ambition to instil a tea culture in Hawaii and have since built up an industry that is unique to the land. Over the past twelve years they have collaborated with numerous researchers from government, academic and environmental institutions to create a sustainable domestic specialty crop for global distribution.

Utilising the unique conditions that the landscape affords such as rich volcanic soil and well-shaded canopies, Tea Hawaii produced its Volcano Black Tea that received a Highly Commended award in the black tea (other regions) category at The Leafies 2022. This tea was encouraged by Hawaii State & Federal research as a speciality crop expanding tea culture. The crop incorporates methods of agroforestry, soil enrichment and carbon sequestration to support a healthy and flourishing ecosystem. 

All of these farming methods recognise and support the relationship between the camellia sinensis plant and the native forest, which Eva recognises as the most important aspect of her tea production. Upon receiving her ‘Gaia’ award at The Leafies ceremony last year, Eva explained: ‘What the plant provides us with culturally and nutritionally comes as a result of the surrounding environment. Every day we are able to see the relationship between the creatures, the birds, the climate and how it all nurtures us […] This relationship to the native forest has expanded and strengthened the interests of how we can participate in its conservation.’

In addition to crafting beautiful, award winning loose-leaf teas, Eva and Chiu educate tea enthusiasts and welcome visitors to their farm. Nominations came in from many of these students and guests of Tea Hawaii, as well as retailers, customers, friends and supporters from across the globe.

Congratulations to Eva Lee at Tea Hawaii, recipient of the ‘Gaia’ award at The Leafies 2022. Read more about Tea Hawaii & Company here.