It didn’t take long during my first few grocery store trips to notice that the cracker/cookie aisle was dominated by Diamond Bakery Co. goodies. Move over Nabisco, you might have met your match! Despite starting in 1921, the Oahu company continues to play an important role in Hawaii’s taste palate due to high demand for authentic, old-fashioned treats.

Back then, Honolulu was full of recently-docked sailors, who introduced their version of “sea biscuits.” That’s when Diamond Bakery Co. started producing its ever-famous line called Saloon Pilot Crackers. Today, their products include saltines, graham crackers (with Maui sugar), locally-favored cookies and animal crackers. And I eat them all. I have to rave over the saltines, though. Twice as thick and rich as those from that “other brand,” this cracker holds up to any soup or topping and has that homemade taste, too.

My newest craving, however, is the Pilot Biscuits. I tried these for the first time recently and was so impressed with their texture, heft and the fact that the flavor is perfect for either a sweet or savory topping. All products come very nicely packaged in sealed, small, pre-portioned packs – ensuring freshness that lasts through the life of the box.

Now, I know you must be thirsty with all this talk of crackers, so I’ll introduce you to a fairly new Hawaii exclusive that I was thrilled to see here – canned teas by Japanese maker Ito En. Being from the South, I couldn’t help but miss that sweetness of teas that I am so accustomed to. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw their green (with ginseng) and black tea offerings that are “lightly sweetened” (40 calories). It’s part of the company’s plan to develop new products here, and I’m thrilled. Even though I usually drink black teas, this green one is my favorite. You can find these in most convenient and drug stores, and by the case in Costco for less than $1 a can.

There is also a version with milk, which might be perfect for some (but not me).

I know most visitors head straight out to get some snacks and drinks upon arrival. If you try these, I bet you’ll love them enough to sneak a few in your suitcase. In fact, I can’t think of a better island-made gift for family back home than tea and biscuits.

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