TEA TIME

Mick Jagger sings that he has nasty habits, and he drinks tea at 3. But the Rolling Stones’ famous frontman isn’t alone in thinking oolong is his “cup of tea.”

Taylor Swift, Johnny Depp and Lady Gaga all go ga-ga over the ethereal elixir. In fact, tea is the most consumed beverage around the globe, right behind water. On Maui, we sip chai after yoga. We quench our thirsts with tropical iced tea at golf clubhouses as we scarf down burgers.

We cool off with green-tea ice cream and creme brulee as heady desserts and eat tea-smoked duck at Chinese New Year, if we are lucky enough to find it.

But the best part is hearing that satisfying whistle of the kettle and then steeping loose leaves or bags in a pot, before we sit down to our favorite hot tea.

One of the pre-eminent experts in the field, David De Candia, will appear on Maui at two separate events to talk tea and elevate our senses with his global knowledge of this beverage.

The Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM) invites the public to his talk and to taste his tea, in the upcoming SustainabiliTea event on Friday afternoon.

Global demand for premium teas is on the rise. That’s why SLIM has invited De Candia here as its special guest.

“David is the director of tea at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and was appointed as the Ceylon Tea Ambassador to North America by the Sri Lankan Tea Board,” says Alex de Roode, executive director of SLIM, who will also speak at the event along with his wife, Andrea, a registered dietitian.

De Candia will discuss organics, fair trade and how global markets affect communities in tea-producing countries such as Sri Lanka. Ceylon (Sri Lankan) teas will be offered as refreshment.

“Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf got started in 1963 and now it’s got 1,000 outlets,” De Candia said, calling from his Camarillo, Calif., home near Los Angeles. “There was no tea guy or coffee guy when I started there. I took to it on my own. I’m self taught and never looked back.”

De Candia personally selects, purchases and hand plucks the teas from family-owned estates across eight countries, including India, China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Africa and Sri Lanka.

“My reason for coming to Maui, aside that I love to go there, is I want to talk about sustainability in Ceylon tea. My appointment was in October by the prime minister. It was quite an honor because their primary export is tea. In fact, 3 out of 10 Sri Lankans work in the industry. I myself have gone there over 20 times. I’ve set up hospitals, day care centers and libraries, given computers and school supplies and gotten involved in programs that enrich the country.”

It’s a copacetic relationship and it pays off, literally. While the teas he sells are a little bit pricey, the tea pickers are assisted and benefit directly from his actions.

“I only work with growers who pay their tea pickers fair wages, so I do things in the community surrounding the tea estates and on the actual estates. I create partnerships that are long term. It takes it deeper. For every few tins I sell, a portion of the proceeds will go back to support a wing of a hosptal, say. It’s theCaring Cup program. It’s really tangible stuff and I’m really honored with it,” De Candia concludes.