The Tea Box in Recarte Holt and Roe is a highly evolving space in Wailuku Town. It started out as an eclectic fine writing instrument shop with art supplies and interesting gifts. But now it’s changing into a gourmet loose leaf tea shop that also serves tea parties and high tea.
“It started because when people would come in to buy a pen, they would have to wait while I set them up,” said owner Stevan Holt. “Then I would offer them a cup of tea. They liked the tea so much they would come back looking asking for it. It just clicked.”
The store itself is still an artistic gathering place where you can pick up fine pens, journals and stationery. But they now have tea pots, cups and much of the accoutrement dedicated to drinking fine teas. They also have glass jars housing the various forms of dried Camellia sinensis–the shrub that Black, Oolong, Green, Pu-erh and White teas all come from.
Black tea is a more oxidized form of the leaf, and stronger in flavor; white is the opposite, being milder and less oxidized. The rest fall into place in between. Tisanes cover all of the herbal infusions that do not have camellia sinensis leaves in them.
The variety and flavors of London Teas that they carry is impressive. London Tea is the brand name, but all of these teas come mainly from Asia, Holt explained. That’s where the plant grows and is harvested. Tea Box imports theirs from China. Holt says he has a special family connection that has opened up their loose leaf road from China. The rare and gourmet teas that they carry aren’t really seen elsewhere on Maui.
“Some of the best teas for Maui would be the tangerine ginger,” said Holt. “If you’re feeling a little something in your throat from the vog, this wipes it out completely. Another one is the ginger turmeric–perfect for digestion. If you have had a big lunch, or have any nausea, this will turn you right.”
The exquisite London Tea Merchant (LTM) tea here runs about $8 for two ounces. Before you scoff, a box of gourmet tea at the market may run similar. Besides, loose leaf teas last longer, you also use less tea in the process of brewing a cup and you can brew them more than once in a sitting. In fact, Oolongs are said to be better when the leaves are brewed more than once (as are the Pu-erh leaves). The shop sells all the tea diffusers and pots and tea cups necessary to serve you a cup or a pot in house.
What’s more, Tea Box also serves High Tea. Think of it as an elegant afternoon spent with your pinkies extended while you sip tea from Tea Boxes’ elegant China, nibble on snacks and sweets brought out on tiered trays and chat merrily. It brings out the British Society in you (no corset needed). Holt said they have partnerships with Zing, Stillwell’s and Four Sisters bakery for their teatime biscuits, delicate sandwiches and sweets. High Tea is reserved a day in advance and is best suited for a reservation of four or more ($35 each). You can taste any of their teas.
Our experience with high tea was debonair. We began with the amuse bouche of cool beet puree with creme fraiche and then straight to three tiers of delicious biscuits and cookies. Each person chose their own pot of tea–we had the Naughty Vicar, one of LTM’s most popular flavored Black tea blends with vanilla and black currant. The coconut Oolong was a very light tea but robust with tropical flavor. We also tried the Pu-erh of blood orange, a very flavorful dark astringent tea.
After the biscuit course, we headed to the savories, again served on a tiered tray. Layers of pretty cucumber sandwiches with crusts trimmed, ham and cheese rolled into elegant bite size wraps and hummus and veggie stuffed mini pitas were filling and tasty. Then, the final sweets course: glorious Stillwell’s pies, apple tarts and mini decadence cakes.
The shop itself has become quite well-suited for tea supping. Cushiony chairs and tea tables abound the space, with plenty of art and books for you to peruse. It’s decorated with dandy bric-a-brac for sale, so shelves of intrigue surround you. Resident artist Loren Adams also has a display where he comes to paint, and a wall displaying his surreal nods to Mother Nature and beyond.
For more information drop by 1999 Main St., Wailuku, call 808-419-6602 or visit Fb/rhrpenshop.
HANDY TEA GUIDE
Black Tea: Full oxidization, long lasting flavors. Full bodied and astringent. Highest in caffeine content. Commonly flavored like Earl Grey with bergamot oil.
Green Tea: Minimal oxidizing, slight grassy flavors. Loses its flavor inside of a year. About half the caffeine as Black tea.
Oolong Tea: A traditional Chinese tea. Hybrid between Black and Green teas.
White Tea: Think minimal processing, practically plucked and dried with little oxidization and very little caffeine. Mildest in flavor, often fruit and flowers are added to its mix.
Pu-erh: Fermented tea. This is a Black tea that has aged, allowing a bacteria activation in the leaf.
Tisane: Blends of herbals, spices and fruits. No caffeine, save for Yerba Mate tea.
Rooibos: A South African plant, that creates a non caffeinated alternative similar in flavor to english breakfast tea. Also called red tea- Rooibos means ‘red bush.’