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Tea

Hawai‘i’s perfect soil for a great drink

Written by Fern Gavelek

There’s something so satisfying about cradling a steaming cup of tea. The delicate aroma, the intricate flavors of leaves and bud, the soothing sensation of velvety, warm liquid slipping down the throat.

Drinking tea is one of those simple acts that can be personally healing or joyfully shared with friends. A pot of steeping tea, with its earthly delights, can transport us to the forest and farm. It can also draw us to the late-afternoon verandas of luxury resorts— complete with an assortment of scones, petit fours and clotted cream—extend those pinkie fingers!

The most widely consumed teas are black, green and oolong—all use the leaves of the same plant: Camellia sinenis, but are processed differently. The processing of the young shoots—involving different degrees of withering, oxidation, heat processing and drying—results in different types of tea. Coveted white tea is minimally processed and only uses the plant’s top bud and two leaves.

Tea is one of the world’s major export commodities and considered the most widely consumed beverage worldwide, after water.

While tea is produced in over 50 countries, a dozen or so claim the lion’s share of the world market. China, India, Sir Lanka, Vietnam, Japan and Kenya are among them. Over the past two decades, there has been ongoing research and the development of small family tea farms and horticultural hobbyists in Hawai‘i and ten U.S. states. Hawai‘i, however, leads the nation in tea production.

According to Eva Lee, co-owner of the Big Isle’s Tea Hawaii & Company, there are about a dozen tea growers statewide. They are doing “small-scale specialty tea crop” (up to 10-acres) commercial production. Eva adds there are many up-and-coming growers whose gardens haven’t reached maturity yet—it takes 3-5 years for plants to yield a harvest.

“Most of Hawai‘i’s growers process their own tea; however, some of us process tea for others,” explains Lee, who grows two acres of tea in Volcano. “The majority of tea production takes place on Hawai‘i Island and there are a few farms on Kaua‘i and Maui in commercial production. Most farms are two acres or less.”

While there are no Hawai‘i Department of Ag stats chronicling Hawai‘i’s emerging tea industry, Eva notes “some growers are making a modest living at it” and the state Department of Agriculture has supported the industry through research and grants. These efforts have motivated Big Islanders to grow tea.

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In 1999-2001, research on half-acre tea plots planted by the USDA’s Tropical Plant Genetic Resource Management Unit and UH’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) showed tea grows “very well” at UH’s Mealani Research Station in Waimea (2,800-foot elevation) and Volcano (4,000 feet) while “relatively slower” at 600 feet in Waia–kea, Hilo. A later, 10-year study by the USDA Pacific Basin Agriculture Research Center (PBARC) found tea cultivated in previously impacted forest had “promising cup quality.”

Tea plants require an ideal temperature of 65-77°F. In the tropics, it needs at least 70-80 inches of rain annually with a dry season of less than three months. Eva says tea grown under shade at high elevations has a “certain sweetness” and more L-theanine, a desired amino acid that works as a relaxant by neutralizing the speedy effects of caffeine without reducing its mind-energizing features.

Hawai‘i’s tea industry is evolving as farmers try growing tea in varying microclimates. For example, Tea Hawaii & Company cultivates tea in a cool ‘Ōi‘a forest while Onomea Tea Company grows it just north of Hilo at a warmer 200 to 400-foot elevation.

“People are growing tea in a wide range of conditions,” says Alex Wood, president of the Hawaii Tea Society, an organization dedicated to the development of Hawai‘i’s tea industry by providing education and services. As general manager of Volcano Winery, he also oversees the winery’s acre of tea.

According to the 2010 “Farm and Forestry Production and Marketing Profile for Tea” by the Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry, the economics of tea production in Hawai‘i are different when compared with most tea-growing regions. Factors include high land and labor costs. However, Lee says Hawai‘i-grown tea shouldn’t be compared with commodity market tea, which is sold through an auction system based on volume and season.

“Specialty tea wholesaled from Hawai‘i growers ranges in price from $50 to $400 a pound,” details Lee. Buyers in Vietnam and China can get standard, commodity tea for $7 to $40 a pound. Hawai‘i’s tea, however, is marketed as a “specialty tea,” meaning it is grown in a region known for exceptional quality.

Why is Hawai‘i-grown tea considered unique? Eva emphasizes that terroir—the characteristic taste and quality imparted to tea by the environment in which it is produced—is number one. “When compared to domestic tea, Hawai‘i’s teas are grown in perfect acidic soil conditions. Our water and air are some of the purest when compared to other tea-producing regions—that’s why origin pride is important.”

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Those seeking Hawai‘i teas can find them at farmers’ markets and via the internet. Value-added products using Hawai‘i teas range from cookies and wine to skin products. There are also tea farm tours and tastings at several farms. Another product sold by tea growers is fresh leafy tea, which is sought by the raw food market.

“This isn’t just a job to us.”

Hawaii Island Gourmet Products in Hilo offers a Green Tea Shortbread Cookie that uses locally grown tea and creates an exclusive Volcano Estate Black Tea Chocolate Truffle for Volcano Winery. The ganache confection goes well with the winery’s award-winning Infusion Tea Wine. Skin products capitalizing on the healing benefits of local teas include Tea-Infused Goat Milk Soap by Coldwater Tea Farm on Kaua‘i and flavored, tea-infused lip balms by the Big Isle’s Mauna Kea Tea.

Kimberly Ino of Mauna Kea Tea says she has a sunscreen in the works that uses their sweet roast green tea. “Ono Pops on O‘ahu makes a popsicle flavored with our sweet roast,” she adds. Mauna Kea grows two acres of tea at 2,000 feet in Ahualoa and harvests an additional acre in Waimea.

The Hawaii Tea Society is hosting the upcoming Tea of the United States-TOTUS 1 Awards in partnership with The Volcano Art Center (VAC), The Kohala Center, Big Island Resource Conservation and Development Council and the Hawaii Farmers Union United. Lee, who serves as the TOTUS 1’s executive director, says the inaugural project is funded by the Hawai‘i County Office of Research and Development in an effort to put Hawai‘i and domestic tea on the radar while encouraging origin pride.

Judging will be at the Volcano Art Center’s Niaulani Campus November 4 with winners announced online November 7. Educational presentations by visiting judges are open to the public. Find details at www.totus1awards.com.

“We have a stellar panel of judges who will provide their expertise in identifying the best of American-origin tea,” Lee notes. “TOTUS data will become a resource for advancing research in domestic tea agriculture and trade.”

The demand for Hawai‘i-grown tea signals the industry is on the road to success. “We can hardly keep up to meet world demand,” Eva says. “The more people grow tea, whether doing so solo or incorporating into existing crops, the better. Everybody should grow tea.”

Kimberly adds, “After moving here in 2005, we found tea is a good way to see what nature could provide and how we could be stewards of the land. I hope small farms here in Hawai‘i can continue to make specialty teas!

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Eat Your Drink

Matthew Biancaniello’s new world

Written By: Kelly McHugh
Photographed by: Mieko Horikoshi

Matthew Bianciaello’s trip to Maui was supported by Ocean Vodka and Montage Kapalua Bay and edible Hawaiian Islands recognizes the generosity of their support.

As I enter the cocktail lounge at Montage Kapalua Bay’s Cane & Canoe, the man behind the bar swiftly excuses himself from his guests and makes a beeline towards me, asking if I would prefer a seat at the bar or a table, warmly complimenting my freckles and, in an instant, soothing me with his New York expat moves: animated, fastidious and incredibly outgoing.

This is the guy. The king of the bar pop-ups and most coveted bartender in L.A. Part scientist, part therapist, part yoga disciple. The foraging, fedora donning, completely captivating Matthew Biancaniello.

“What’s in this thing?!” begs the suddenly stoked tongue of a guest seated at the bar, “vodka, ice and amazing?”

“Let’s get you started,” Matthew advises me, with deep, direct eye contact.

Welcome to Eat Your Drink, a garden-to-glass venture à la the Alice Waters philosophy whereby meals are based on seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally, manifested in cocktail form by Biancaniello. “Believe it or not, this all just started for me about six years ago,” he submits while designing my first cocktail, “All of my past jobs have led me to this moment – from underwater photography, to selling ads for ‘Time Out New York,’ to working in L.A. with a catering company. I landed at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel’s Library Bar and just started making my own flavors rather than using the customary sour mixes they had on-hand.”

Crediting his mother, a renowned Boston interior designer, with his creativity, he was exposed to fine art and antiques, color scheme, detail and texture from an early age. Growing up in New York, he visited the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) every week to study the likes of Francis Bacon and Alice Neel, noting that what they were doing with their work actually had few reference points, and therefore did not easily lend it to criticism. “This is how I approached my own work; I didn’t think about what was missing in the market, I just did what came from me, and I lived inside of that bubble until it was time to come out.”

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Biancaniello events are going for $10,000 – $20,000 a pop these days, a substantial validation of his talents in the rapidly growing cocktail chef scene. Never mind the hilarious (loose, energized, excited – an embarrassment of descriptive soirée ingredients even before dinner) comments careening through the lounge: “I have one thing to say: OH MY GOD!” from a woman attending the Women in Technology conference, who rented a car from Wailea to be here.

“I have been following you for TWO years, Matthew! Thank God my friend in L.A. told me about this event, I hear about you everywhere,” from a woman presenting Biancaniello with a paper bag of Surinam cherries, one of his signature ingredients.

“Goodbye piña colada; this is going to change everything,” from a self-proclaimed foodie sitting beside me, eyes alert and titillated.

This is the vibe that is created by an Eat Your Drink event, whether it be a pop-up or chef collaboration. “Generally, I like to ensure that everyone at my table is getting something unique,” explains Biancaniello, “It’s a fun challenge for me to tailor a drink specific to my guest’s situation. What kind of mood are they in? Are they having a night cap or just going out? Have they eaten yet or is this dessert? And so, I might make a wild arugula gimlet that can act as a salad course, or an amusebouche of passion fruit (I just got 50 pounds from my favorite farm – the second it hit season) with a home-made sriracha just to open up the palate. And then the best part is to watch as everyone inevitably passes their drinks around and shares their experiences. It becomes much more interactive and fun. And if they order food, all the better because now I really have something to interact with.”

For the Maui Eat Your Drink event, Biancaniello teamed up with Ocean Vodka, Montage Kapalua Bay, chef/farmer and Farmto- Plate advocate James (Kimo) Simpliciano of Simpli-fresh produce LLC and esteemed Maui chef Riko Bartolome. “Going to James’ farm with Riko was such a different experience for me,” Biancaniello says. “In L.A., I’m at the farmer’s market four times a week, (people always joke that I’m in the farmer’s market mafia because I’ll walk up to a stand and a box will suddenly appear from underneath the table with an ‘I have been saving this for you!’ because I’m always asking for new, different, seasonal ingredients for my drinks), but it’s rare that I actually have an opportunity to interact with the farmer. They’re 4-5 hours outside of town, tending to their farm, and they’ve sent their friends or workers to be at the markets. And the last place I’m going to see them is at my bar at 11 p.m., because they’re down for the night. James really took the time to work with us, I think we foraged and talked for like two hours! And it was interesting because, like most farmers, he’s thinking food. So when I started putting ingredients together and mixed something for all of us on the spot, I could see that James was blown away.”

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“Like any artist, be it a chef or mixologist, when I am approached for help finding what is wild, local or in season, I love to share – especially now that I am foraging and farming,” offers Simpliciano. “For farmers to make these things available that are not on-hand in the grocery store only adds to a mass understanding of the factors that make this whole process beautiful. This is about artisanal taste, not just aesthetic or visual taste and texture.

As a farmer, knowing someone like Matthew adds to the palate on our farm, and opens doors for other mixologists to explore the farms around them. Just knock on their door and ask for a tour or an exchange. Matthew was really looking for different ingredients and a broad variety of options. Now it’s up to us to adapt to what’s in demand in order to see this process grow – this melting pot of abundance.”

As we are seated for dinner that evening, Chef Riko Bartolome mentions how easy Biancaniello made his job of creating the collaborative tasting menu,: “He picked all of the ingredients first and made my task super easy.” After a third course presentation of Biancaniello’s Ocean vodka, uni pure, cumin simple syrup, nori, lemon and agave – a recipe that he intended to “replicate the ocean as much as possible,” Bartolome followed with a prosciutto, watermelon, uni, radish and watercress dish in order to “replicate his replication.”

The guests seated around the family-style table for 30 (with a wait list of 60) laugh in appreciation of the chef’s apparent admiration of mutual talent, then sip, taste and laugh again in surprise; each collaborative course designed as a sophisticated mating – not quite complete without its counterpart. It’s surprising, it’s sensual, and yes – it’s FUN.

“The way I see it, you have four chances to make an impression with a drink during an event like this where people are coming to learn about the Eat Your Drink trend and to figure out what it means for them,” explains Biancaniello. “You have the name, the presentation, the scent and the taste. Each step should take you one step closer and one step further into the process. What combination of elements fits into this moment? How can I make this exciting?”

Weeks after the Eat Your Drink event he flew to the islands for, I ran into one of my fellow attendees still reeling with this excitement. As she described raw green mango foam on an oyster and candy cap mushroom bourbon concoctions by a man, completely engrossed in his task, wearing a starched aloha shirt, kukui beads and farm boots, conceivably trailing a lilac vine as he danced behind the bar with a penetrative story about where every ingredient on the menu came from, I felt pressed to call him and ask, “Why L.A.?”

“Please, my dream now is to move to Maui,” he grants, “but right now, L.A. is the greatest place for produce in the world in my opinion. If Hawai‘i can keep embracing and encouraging local farms more than anything, and not just for food, but for drinks, so much more can be happening. I didn’t get to meet Sunny Savage while I was there, but I read her book and know that I need to come back and spend some time foraging with and learning from her.

Also, if Hawai‘i can somehow revise the alcohol laws so that ingredients can legally be infused into spirits (rather than just muddled), this shift can work. You have so much rain, and beautiful, fertile, sacred soil. Organic can be expanded into biodynamic farming there. Once these steps are taken, we will see this trend evolve in such a way that farmers aren’t just thinking food – they’re thinking drink.”

And as we hang up the phone so that he can make it to his yoga class on time, twin toddlers being juggled in the background, Matthew implores me to buy a ticket to L.A. to be at his pop-up the next night. “Passion fruit is in season. It’s going to be amazing. You have to be here.”

Twist my arm, Matthew. Twist it.

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Crafting Aloha Spirit with Fresh Ingredients

Written by Marta Lane
Photographed by Trish Barker

Cocktails made with fresh ingredients burst to life when using produce from Hawai’i’s farmers’ markets. Ripe fruit and pungent herbs intensify color and flavor and well-made spirits add complexity. Rum is popular in the Hawaiian Islands, probably because of the Mai Tai cocktail, which is made with both white and dark rums. Because today’s Mai Tai drinker purses their lips at canned pineapple juice, we’ve included recipes with fresh ingredients and locally-made rum.

Kōloa Rum Company is a single-batch distillery located near Kalaheo on the island of Kaua‘i. Since opening in 2009, they have won 21 medals, including four this April at the 72nd Annual Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Conference in Florida. All five award-winning rums — Dark, Spice, Gold, Silver and Coconut — are made with Hawai‘ i-grown sugarcane and pure Kaua‘i mountain rainwater.

All distillation, blending, bottling and packaging is done exclusively on Kaua‘i. The distillation process incorporates a circa 1947 copper pot still and column with seven plates that captures the essence of fermented sugarcane, or rum, resulting in a cleaner product. “The beauty of having a column with plates is that we have a higher proof and cleaner distillate, essentially better-quality alcohol,” explains President and CEO, Bob Gunter.

Today, the team at Kōloa Rum is also growing sugarcane, and currently experimenting with making rum from cane juice extracted in the field. “We’re very happy to be playing a role in bringing sugarcane back to Kaua‘i, “ says Gunter. “One of the reasons we wanted to start this business was to keep cane growing, employ local people, add to our economic diversity, and create products that local people could be proud of. “

Farmers’ markets in Hawai‘i are a gold mine for flavor because they’re loaded with exotic fruit that was grown just a few miles away and picked that morning, at the peak of ripeness. During the summer, stalls spill with passion fruit, mango and pineapple. Throughout the winter months and into spring, you’ll find an enormous variety of citrus. Don’t deny an orange with rust-colored skin; it just means it wasn’t sprayed with pesticides. You might not easily find an ugly looking orange in a store, but they are worth seeking out at farmers’ markets because they yield about five times more juice.

There are approximately 100 varieties of Hawaiian citrus that can be found at the markets. Besides many types of oranges, you may see kumquats, tangerines, mandarins, tangelos, several types of grapefruit, pomelo, Tahitian limes, Key limes, Kaffir limes and small, orange-colored calamansi limes. There’s also pink variegated lemons, Meyer lemons, Buddha’s hand and Eureka lemons. If you want it to last all year, freeze fruit juices and purees.

Handcrafted cocktails begin with muddling. To do this, place ingredients such as lime wedges, fresh herbs, or roasted chili peppers in a metal shaker, and press with a muddler to extract flavor. Fruit size and sugar levels vary based on variety, where it was grown and the season. After mixing juice with a sweetener, such as simple syrup or honey, taste your cocktail mix. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments. It’s the only way to achieve a sublime balance between sweet and tart.

Once you’ve muddled everything, add spirits and ice cubes. When making ice cubes, you can add additional flavor with thin slices of fresh ginger and fresh coconut water, both of which are available at Hawai‘i’s farmers’ markets. Ice studded with flecks of Hawaiian chili peppers adds spice to Bloody Marys. Large ice cubes take longer to melt, which is especially good in sub-tropical climates.

If you want to shake like a bartender, master your shake-face. After adding rum and ice to the shaker, top with a pint glass, cocked at a slight angle. Tap the top until you hear a slight pop, indicating a seal. Tip the shaker over your shoulder, holding the glass away from your face. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, hip distance apart and shake firmly until the metal looks chilled. To break the seal, tap where the shaker and glass bend toward each other. Set the glass aside and place a cocktail strainer over the shaker. Pour into glassware.

People drink with their eyes first, so take a look at your glassware and choose one that makes sense. For example, the warmer a drink gets, the sweeter it gets, so they’re best served in small portions using glasses such as champagne coupes. Garnishes add an elegant touch, but make sure they’re edible. Choose organic to avoid pesticides and know that some flowers, such as plumerias, are toxic. Safe floral garnishes that offer a touch of Hawai‘i include a spray of purple ti flowers, pineapple leaves, spicy nasturtiums, exotic orchids and creamy coconut palm flowers. Twisting a strip of citrus zest releases tiny drops of essential oils over the glass and sliding it in afterwards adds additional flavor and color.

Other garnishes include toasted coconut, chocolate covered Kona coffee beans, or wedges of fresh pineapple. Compostable paper straws (which are available online) add whimsy and color. When hosting a cocktail party, snip herbs from small pots as you make drinks, or display whole fruit with signs that highlight which farm they were grown on. Have fun and experiment because making cocktails with Hawai‘i-grown ingredients is a spirited way to play with local flavors!

Hirata Dreams of the Shochu

Written by Jill Engledow
Photography by Jana Dillon

Japanese vacationer Ken Hirata was eating the iconic Hawaiian food, poi, when the thought occurred to him: Poi is fermented, and so is shochu, a popular Japanese distilled spirit. Maybe Hawaii would be a good place to produce the drink made from fermented starches.

It was a bit of a joke at the time, but after Hirata went home to his office job in Japan the idea kept brewing in his mind. Hawaii has a great climate for year-round growing, a variety of sweet potatoes and excellent water (an important ingredient in shochu and other beverages). Besides that, Hirata knew from his visits that the Islands would be a great place to live.

More than a decade later, Hirata and his wife, Yumiko, run the Hawaiian Shochu Company in Haleiwa, using sweet potatoes grown in their own backyard or bought from farms around Hawaii to make traditionally crafted small batches of shochu.

Shochu originated in Kyushu, Japan. While sake, a brewed rice wine, is better known outside Japan, shochu has enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent years in Japan and abroad. It may be drunk straight, on the rocks, diluted with hot water, mixed with oolong tea, fruit juice, a low-alcohol beer, or as chuhai, a mixed drink sometimes sold in cans from vending machines. Though it used to be considered a working man’s drink, shochu’s light taste, relatively low alcohol content (about 30 percent, somewhere between wine and whiskey) and calorie count have made it popular with women.

Shochu has been made in Japan since at least the 16th century, possibly originating from the Middle Eastern distilled alcohol known as araki. Over time, different areas of Japan created their own specialized versions using local raw materials–starches such as rice, barley, buckwheat, sugar cane and fruit. All are fermented with what Hirata says is the “national fungi of Japan,” koji. The same microorganism is used to make other fermented foods, such as miso and shoyu .

Hirata learned how to work with starches and koji to make shochu from a master of the technique, but just becoming this master’s apprentice was his first challenge. “Traditional techniques are usually passed on to family members,” he says.

When he approached the distiller who made his favorite brand of shochu, the distiller turned him down. He kept trying, and eventually he was accepted. Hirata quit his job and began a three-year apprenticeship at Manzen Shuzo Co. in Kagoshima, Japan. He must have been a good student, because Master Toshihiro Manzen ended up giving Hirata 100-year-old ceramic vats the master had inherited from his own father and grandfather, along with a wooden still.

In 2013, in a little distillery near the north-shore surfing town of Haleiwa, Hirata began using these traditional containers to produce shochu using rice and local sweet potatoes. He has been trying potatoes from different places around the islands, finding that each location’s crop produces its own unique flavor. A batch distilled from Hamakua sweet potatoes might be a “Big Island blend,” while another is a “Molokai blend.” Besides buying from various islands, Hirata works closely with farmers who cultivate the crop on just over half of the 11 acres of agricultural land his company leases from Kamehameha Schools. The little distillery is surrounded by green fields filled with potential raw ingredients.

Inside, the vats received from Master Manzen are half-buried in the ground, making it easy to work with their contents and keeping the temperature cool and stable for fermentation. Hirata and his wife are the only employees. They do everything from steaming the rice to filling and labeling the bottles once their distilled shochu has aged.

Shochu production begins with steaming high-quality rice from California. Hirata adds koji (imported fresh from Japan for each batch) to create a cultured rice that ferments for a few days in flat wooden trays. Then steamed sweet potatoes are mashed and mixed with the rice (the purple of Okinawan potatoes making for a lovely magenta-colored mash). That mixture is placed into the ceramic vats, where it ferments for a couple of weeks. Finally, the mash is heated, distilled, and left to mature for up to six months in a holding tank. Along the way, Hirata keeps track of the progress of his product using skills he learned from his master, judging the process by feel, smell and taste.

The result, decanted into delicately decorated glass bottles, is called Namihana, reflecting some of the charms of Hawai‘i with the Japanese words for wave (nami) and flowers (hana). Namihana has proved popular with both locals and tourists. Hirata sells about 70 percent of each batch at $39 a bottle to individuals who drive out to Haleiwa. Of those, almost half are tourists from Japan, while the rest are island residents. The remainder of the Namihana goes to a distributor and shows up in a variety of restaurants. The fifth batch was ready in mid-September, and, like earlier batches, was expected to sell out.

The Hiratas are able to produce about 6,000 bottles a year in two batches. The size of the holding tank where freshly distilled shochu ages is one limiting factor. Another is the amount of work involved, already a lot for a two-person crew. Hirata would like to increase production to perhaps 10,000 bottles a year, but the company will need another holding tank and a helper. In the meantime, shochu fans wait for each batch, and Master Manzen comes for a visit every year. Like many Japanese, he loves the islands, and now his visits offer the added incentive of watching a former apprentice successfully carry ancient tradition into a new time and place.

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The Sporting Club of the Pacific

Fueling excellence and high performance

Written by Kristin Hettermann
Photography by Franck Berthuot

It’s 5 a.m. and the sun is just thinking about rising over the Pacific Ocean. Tugger Balcom is lined up with coolers on-shore at Maliko Gulch, the favorite launching spot for jet skis taking daring athletes out to the world-famous surf spot, Jaws.

Professional surfers Matt Meola, Ian Walsh and Mark Healey are ready to attack their day, but first they pick up the most important support system in their regimen. Called a “Pack,” the cooler full of nutrients in the form of cold pressed juices and elixirs will accompany them out to sea and keep them nourished as they conquer the waves all day long.

Known to be the one of the epicenters of the surf world, the North Shore of Maui is serenaded by big wave winter swells and a dependable wind tunnel that welcome pristine water sport conditions all year long. And when we say big, we mean big. The legendary wave Jaws is known to climb up to 70 feet high and travel 30 miles per hour.

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This past winter, 2014-15, was one of the most dramatic winter seasons for paddle surfing that the North Shore has seen in decades. Jaws was cranking and the surfers were serious about their rides and any strategy they could practice that would increase their performance. As in life and in surfing, you often don’t get second chances.

“Packing” is the new word on the surf scene in Hawai‘i. Packing refers to packing nutritional levels by hydrating with juice.

But how did packing become potentially the biggest new trend in high performance athletics? It all started with one man and a passion for curating excellence and authenticity. Enter Tugger Balcom and The Sporting Club of the Pacific.

The Sporting Club of the Pacific was originally birthed as a gathering concept for ideas and projects. Tugger, an avid sportsman, had a group of friends who were athletes and craftsmen, capable of producing high-quality products including spear guns and hatchets for hunting and fishing. Inspired by this community, Tugger’s initial concept was to create an umbrella brand through The Sporting Club of the Pacific that all these projects would fit under: hand-forged tools, carefully constructed spear guns, handcrafted surfboards, and more.

A group of friends with similar interests and different ideas could collaborate by coming together, discussing ideas, creating conversations, and as a collective would aim to see as many of these ideas through to success as possible. Through this brand and a convergence of thought and talent, a blacksmith together with a woodworker could create new ideas for the spear gun and further the craft.

“The core mission of The Sporting Club of the Pacific is to create a conversation that otherwise wouldn’t exist… building a platform for shared information from surfers, athletes, and craftsmen, who join together to talk story and brainstorm ideas,” Tugger explains. “This creates a think tank of sorts that is a fusion of art and craftsmanship to create performance…conversation around projects and how different aspects of product design relate to usability and performance. The juicing was just another project under the umbrella.”

After a decade-long struggle with his own personal health issues including psoriasis, Tugger (a father and avid surfer) had started experimenting with his diet and embracing more greens. In a few years, he realized that his new diet full of green juice (also deleting dairy, eggs and sugar) was not only alleviating his psoriasis but was making him feel great- increasing his performance in the water and in his life. He started to investigate the idea of fresh, cold-pressed drinks formulated for sport.

A Performance Freediving class with Kirk Krack taught him the physiology of a breath hold, which gave him a few more pieces of information that helped in the formulation of his high-performance juice line for athletes. A few things he learned:

  • Caffeine and processed sugars elevate your heart rate, consuming more oxygen.
  • Digesting food borrows from the circulatory system consuming more oxygen, taking away from a breath hold.
  • The more efficiently your red blood cells travel throughout your body, the more efficient the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, the longer your breath hold.

The basic idea of Tugger’s first official sports drink, the Pineapple Chlorophyl Hydration, was to simultaneously open and lubricate the circulatory system without additives (caffeine, sugars) that could potentially elevate the heart rate and consume more oxygen.

Juicing seemed like the perfect compliment to an intense fitness regime, opening up the “fast lane” for daily nutrient absorption. Green, red, white, yellow; the dense colors tell the story, indicating the concentration of nutrients from high-quality food in liquid form. In a Department of Agriculture study, researchers analyzed 12 fruits and found that 90 percent of the antioxidant activity was in the juice rather than the fiber. (1) By removing the fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients can be absorbes and assimilate with greater ease across the digestive tract, translating into faster energy.

Tugger attributes the launch of his waterman nutrient research effort to DK Walsh, who, along with his brother Shaun and their crew at Skullbase, do safety patrol and rescue wipe-outs at some of the most treacherous surf spots in the world. After a long week of work that led into the first swell of last winter, DK came to Tugger thinking he had thrown his back out. A week later, it was determined that his ailments were due to malnourishment and dehydration. So Tugger birthed the research and development phase of Packs at The Sporting Club of the Pacific.

“A lot of the surfers started tuning in. Our Packs immediately started to change the habits of some of the best athletes in the world. They kept coming back asking for more, with consistent comments of surfing at their highest levels. With their feedback, we have developed what we now call our Base Pack…creating a really solid baseline of nutrients.”

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During the now infamous Winter 2014/2015 season, Tugger developed a specific program for the professional surfers focused on these areas. About a week out, they started with a daily Prep Pack. This included: A hydration drink with bromelain and chlorophyll that worked on opening the circulatory system; a green juice (kale, romaine, cucumber, aloe, pineapple and chia) and red juice (beet, carrot, coconut water, ginger and Himalayan salt) daily to build nutrient levels; a blue juice (coconut, pineapple, lemon, ginger, maca, cayenne and blue spirulina) to boost circulation and adrenal support; a maintenance shot (ginger, lemon, echinacea, oregano, apple cider vinegar and local honey) for direct immune support; a Mother’s Milk shot (house made coconut cream, EFA oil, MCT oil, lemon and honey) for cognitive function; and a turmeric shot for inflammation recovery. Post-sport, they offered a Recovery Pack, focused on anti-inflammation and muscle recovery.

“The Pack was a really good way for the surfers to have access to nutrition, fast and easy. It started as an experiment: if we elevated levels of nutrition, would the body respond with higher performance? I had to test it. The Prep Pack, Performance Pack, and Recovery Pack would provide nutrients for the whole day, preparing athletes as the big day approached, keeping them sharp and focused when the swell arrived, and aiding in the healing and recovery post-performance. The athletes said they experienced real, sustained energy throughout the day without a ‘bonk,’ and were reporting their most impressive days on the waves.”

Participation of athletes and the community turned Tugger’s concepts and experiments a year ago into fine-tuned recipes. Using the highest-quality product that can be found on Maui, the ingredients are sourced from farms and producers throughout the north shore and upcountry. Using only the best of what’s fresh and local, they understand where each ingredient comes from and how it is being grown.

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“Our influence comes in the simplicity of accessing support for your mind and body without having to go too far or think too hard. My effort of product research with professional surfers is really about learning more about juicing to support a high performance lifestyle…increasing performance in all aspects of life that leads to that single moment. I wanted to form a range of products that support a lifestyle from a 360-degree perspective.”

Professional surfer Matt Meola made more than a few headlines with his performances on the waves this year. One of the original athletes to start working with Tugger’s juicing regime, Matt has been committed to packing since last November. “Since beginning with the Packs, I’ve noticed that I have way more stamina to train and have pulled some of the most remarkable tricks of my career. On the big swells I don’t like to have anything heavy in my stomach. With the Packs, I can surf all day long and feel light. Mentally, when you spend a week elevating your nutritional levels, if gives you the confidence to put your body out there in some of the most taxing physical situations that could exist.”

“We spent the last year dialing in our program for athletes, and next year we are focused on sharing our ideas with more people. These wellness strategies are not just for surfing. Anytime that you are putting your body to the test, juicing makes a big difference. The student with a pending final exam, the executive with a presentation, or mom running a 5k can all benefit from the same performance attributes as a big wave surfer. Fast and easy, full of nutrients with immediate results, it’s just about giving the body and mind lots of good ingredients so they can function at their most efficient levels. What I’ve noticed is that you get out of your body what you put into it.”

1) Rose, Natalia. 2007. Raw Food Life Force: Enter a Totally New Stratosphere of Weight Loss, Beauty, and Health. New York, NY: Harper.

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Noni

Scientific name: Morinda citrifolia
Family: Rubiaceae

Native to the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, Australia and India, this evergreen tree is famous for both its foul smell and its medicinal properties. A member of the coffee family, it has historically been used to dye textiles yellow or red (purplish brown).

Noni is one of the most-used Hawaiian plant medicines and in Samoan cultures all parts of the plant are used, not just the fruit. Though medicinal benefits have yet to be fully substantiated in clinical trials, it is believed that drinking Noni juice as well as using other parts of the tree can help in the alleviation of the following ailments, to name a few: colds, flu, diabetes, anxiety, cancer, inflammation, hypertension and depression.

Because of its wide-spread popularity, Noni juice can be found in most grocery stores in Hawai‘i and the trees are everywhere. Juice is best drunk when combined with a sweet fruit to help with the smell.

It’s All About Creating Synergy

Written by Fern Gavelek
Photographed by Anna Pacheco

Chef Stephen Rouelle talks the talk and walks the walk in the kitchen. The chef demonstrates his personal values and nutritional knowledge—learned through personal experience—via menu selections and best practices at two Hawai‘i Island eateries. They are Under the Bodhi Tree at The Shops at Mauna Lani on the Kohala Coast and Making the Cut Café inside Pacific Island Fitness in Kailua-Kona.

Chef’s culinary focus wasn’t always driven by personal choices. Born in Montpelier, Vermont, he learned the traditional tenets of food preparation at both Central Vermont Vocational School and Johnson & Wales University. His 30-year culinary career included stints inside his native state and also Ohio, Hawai‘i and international locales.

“I spent 20 years working at various hotels and feel like I had success,” shares Stephen. “However, I wasn’t personally eating healthy and I was living my life in silos.”

Elaborating on what that means, chef explains his personal values and relationships with food were contained separately—“they didn’t meet.” He says choice of menu items and diet didn’t always “line up” to his beliefs about the environment and the humane treatment of animals.

”I feel my life and work are now one and I have more synergy.”

The need to lose weight prompted Stephen to change his eating habits. He started on a vegetable-based diet of lean protein and eventually converted to a “primarily raw vegan diet” after finding nutrient-rich, raw food is generally low in calories and contains beneficial living enzymes.

Chef says he’s now living his beliefs regarding food. Under The Bodhi Tree offers vegetarian, vegan (zero animal products) and raw food. Choice of ingredients is also driven by local availability and the restaurant is the state’s only eatery awarded a Hawai‘ i Dept. of Agriculture Seal of Quality, designating it uses genuine, Hawai‘i-grown or -made premium products.

The challenge in marketing Bodhi’s specialized food is making it approachable to all prospective patrons, according to Rouelle, so menu items use names people relate to. For example, Reuben’s Garden Sandwich is “corned” tofu—prepared using a salt brine and pickling spice—melted swiss cheese, house-made sauerkraut, mushrooms and kale served on seeded rye. The Garden in a Grinder Gazpacho aptly describes the makings of this tasty cold soup. It has a healthy “slow glycemic load”—meaning the digestion of fiber slows down the body’s absorption of sugar.

At the newly opened Making the Cut, chef prepares “fitness food,” offering items lower in carbs and fat and higher in protein. “We cater to gym-goers and those on a paleo diet,” says Stephen.

Summing up his journey on fusing food and career with personal values, chef concludes, “I feel my life and work are now one and I have more synergy.”

The Heart and Soul of a Farm

A FARM Written by Vanessa Wolf

Photograph courtesy of Kumu Farms

“The heart and soul of Kumu Farms are the 20 hard-working farmers on Moloka‘i and 15 hard-working farmers on Maui,” explains Emanuela “Manu” Vinciguerra. “I am PR, marketing and sales,” she continues, “but on a farm you do everything. ”

“I’m washing vegetables right now as we talk,” she adds with a giggle.

Led by 30-year veteran and Master Farmer Grant Schule, Kumu Farms got its start in 1981 with 130 acres on Moloka‘i. The island is free from the devastating papaya ringspot virus, and Kumu Farms began by growing what is now their flagship crop: non-GMO, strawberry papaya.

In 2012, an opportunity to expand to Maui arose, and these days Kumu’s conventional, sustainable and Certified Organic Production practices yield 35 different crops, including 12 herb varieties, kale, beets, fennel, bananas, papayas and salad mix.

But it’s more than the daily tasks of growing, harvesting and delivering this produce that motivates this team.

“Our goal is very simple,” explains Manu. “We are a productive, organic farm that aims to feed good food to the people of Maui and Moloka‘i – and the other islands whenever possible – all while serving and connecting the community. We donate 500-600 pounds of produce to the Food Bank every single week.”

“We believe it’s a cycle,” Manu elaborates. “The more we give and the more we treat farmers fairly, the more that will come back to us all. That includes six other unstoppable workers: Etty and Daisy on Moloka‘i and Cveta, Teresa, Kazuko and me on Maui. We do the after-harvest work and serve the customers.

“Still, our farmers are our heart and soul,” she concludes. “They are family to us and together we are a team, an ‘ohana. If we didn’t have them, Kumu Farms wouldn’t exist.”

Kaua’i Kolada

Recipe by Stephanie Krieger

1ó oz. Nani Moon Pineapple Lime Mead

. oz. Ocean Vodka

. oz. Koloa Coconut Rum

1ó oz. fresh coconut water

2 oz. fresh pineapple Juice

Squeeze fresh lime

DIRECTIONS

Stir to blend, and drop in a couple of ice cubes.

Making Square Ice Cubes

Here we share how easy it is to make large, clear ice cubes to heighten your bar skills and make your drink a bit more delicious.

We purchased silicone ice cube molds from our local kitchen store.

DIRECTIONS

1. The water should be distilled or you can boil tap water twice, let cool.

2. Fill the mold, then set the mold into a larger container filled with regular tap water.

3. Place the filled mold in the freezer, overnight if possible.

4. Once frozen solid, release from mold, use immediately and enjoy.

Note:  You can add herbs, fresh fruit or vegetables. Don’t use anything acidic or it may not freeze completely.