MAUI: LOVE AFFAIR WITH A LAVENDAR FARM
Upcountry in Maui, overlooking the drifts of ocean and greenery below, we are sitting under an umbrella to take tea. No ordinary tea though. We are pouring the liquid from steeped lavender flowers. The scones still warm from the oven are dotted with lavender buds. And the reddish guava and strawberry jam that we are eagerly scooping up is infused with lavender. It’s a lavender life. Placed on the table to ward off the warming of the morning, and the odd mosquito that buzzes by, is a spritzer bottle of lavender spray. And just in case this morning’s “task” takes its toll on our hands —a jar of lavender rosemary salve to work into our virginal pink skin.
But then this is no ordinary tea on no ordinary island. Sitting on a verandah on a green slope of the Haleakula Volcano on Hawaii’s “Magic Isle,” we are sipping tea at the Ali’i Kula Lavender Farm. The “farm” looks more like a vineyard on a Tuscan hillside. And the hilly property with a view is named after the exuberant owner Ali’i (pronounced Alee) Chang, who started his newly-opened lavender business on a wing and a prayer. The wing is Chang’s dragonfly logo seen flitting on his purple shirt and his myriad lavender products. Why a dragonfly? “The dragonfly represents the rejuvenation of all living things,” explains Ali’i. “It’s the first sign of spring and a symbol of personal renewal.” Well, yes, give me wings.
The prayer is the one Ali’i said to his deity at the Chinese altar in his home every day for five years. Finally, she told him what to do with his talents and energy: “Start a lavender farm.” He has taken her advice to the max. Among statues and benches and lavender-coloured garden chairs, the hills are alive with stalks and blooms. In fact, this site is the only place in the world where you’ll find certain types of lavender blooming year round. It’s a serene, beautiful setting. “This is my Monet painting,” says Chang as he sweeps his hand over new plantings. The results though are more than artistic.
Harvesting 45 varieties of lavender, ‘Lavender Engineer’ Chang today offers marinade rubs for cooking, lavender sheafs that you throw into the fireplace to refresh your whole house, exfoliates for your skin and scrubs for your face, and even lavender sunscreen containing aloe vera, vitamins and coffee seed extract. As we drink up, Chang comes by our table to show us his lavender garden lotion that softens cracked and bleeding hands and speeds the healing process. “ I’m addicted to it,” he says.
The healing benefits of lavender go back centuries—to Roman times when they bathed in it, burned it in temples and used it as an antiseptic after battle. But it wasn’t until the 1920s that the oil made history. The father of aromatherapy, Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French perfume chemist who coined the term, was amazed when he mistakenly plunged his arm into a vat of lavender oil after a lab accident. Not only did it reduce the pain of his severe burn but it also healed his arm without scarring. Lavender has since become recognized as the healing touch for eczema and psoriasis, burns, cuts and scrapes. Just the scent alone can calm the nervous system, alleviate headaches and act as the perfect antidote to our fast-paced, crazy-making life.
At the lavender talk following tea, scone provider Paulette holds up a tiny sewn bag filled with the herb. “If the whole family is gathered at your house, and things are getting tense,” she adds, “just walk by quietly with this and squeeze. And if you’re on a red-eye flight, and you’ve got an 18-month-old beside you,” she jokes, “Squeeze, squeeze.” Little did she know that by coincidence, I had indeed carried a lavender pillow with me on my long flight to Maui, baby or not. We also learn that larger pillows can be heated in the microwave to soothe tired muscles or cooled in the refrigerator to depuff eyes or relieve headaches.
A tour of the 55-acre farm reveals that each variety of lavender has its own smell, colour and use. Guide Tehemina encourages us to “feel, touch and smell.” Who knew that white lavender existed or that a variety from Provence was as strong as rope or that Spanish lavender flowers should be added to your bath? The lavender farm partners with other local cottage industries to produce lavender chocolates from a nearby candy maker, lavender cheese from an Upcountry goat farmer, bread studded with lavender from the Bread Lady down the road. Many products are sold in the gift shop or by mail order.
Before we leave, we weave through the crowds to find healthy shampoo, a salad ingredient, a creamy lavender skin moisturizer and the ideal insect repellent. And on a shelf in a blue bottle, a Vitamin E lavender-scented item called Love Potion oil. True that the overwhelming power of the lavender scent has been used through the ages to arouse passion. Cleopatra supposedly used it to seduce Mark Anthony. Newlyweds placed it under their beds as a love potion. During Tudor England, young maidens would sip lavender brew to guess the identity of their true loves. Hmmm… perhaps this visit could lead to more than just a quiet cuppa on a volcanic hillside in Maui. It could be a lavender life after all.
For information on the Lavender Garden Tea Tour visit Aliikula Lavender
For flights to Hawaii go to www.itravel2000.com
Kate Pocock is a Toronto-based travel writer, author and editor of www.familytravelink.com