Doug and Genna Wolkon’s home tea garden is an acre-and-a-half of well-manicured herbs, wild with abundance. A slim tread of dirt serves as a footpath between hardy Hawaiian chili pepper plants and a bed of knee-high ginger. The grounds, delicately fenced with chicken wire, are impossible to explore without feathery brushes from a tulsi plant or the budding leaves of a mission fig. As backyard herbalists, the Wolkons draw upon the traditions of Polynesian, Chinese and ayurvedic medicine to make a variety of loose-leaf herbal teas. They call their business Kauai Farmacy because each of the seventy-some herbs they grow has medicinal value of one sort or another.
On a stroll through the garden Doug Wolkon plucks a red and sheeny leaf from a cranberry hibiscus tree, places it on his tongue and chews. “Like candy,” he smiles, savoring the delicate sweetness. Cranberry hibiscus adds a pop of flavor and a zip of vitamin C to the Women’s Wellness Tea, a tonic that also contains tulsi, ginger, bele spinach, moringa, lemongrass, turmeric and other herbs. Among the Wolkons’ blends are Tulsi Mint Tea, a digestive and palate cleanser, Vitalitea, an energy booster, and Love Potion Tea, which we leave to your imagination. Packaged in small tins, the teas are sold at the Kilauea Farmers Market, online and to visitors who come to tour the gardens.
Not every plant in the Wolkon’s tea garden goes into the teacup. Kauai Farmacy also produces drink powders, salves and hydrosols, as well as something called Buzz Chew, which is said to freshen both breath and mind. Its star ingredient is Spilanthes acmella, a.k.a the toothache plant, which numbs the gums and sets the mouth atingle. The teas, of course, tend to have a more soothing effect. “As for the flavor of a cup of tea, it should be exquisite all the way through,” Doug says. “Healing should be all about ease and happiness.”