STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 3, Number 1

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26 STiR tea & coffee industry international s long ago as 1744, tea seeds were planted in Savannah, Georgia and tea cultiva- tion continued sporadically in the area through the 18th century. During the 19th century, tea was produced commercially in Greenville, South Carolina, fur- ther experiments were carried out in Georgetown, and in 1888 Dr. Charles Shepherd established the Pinehurst Tea Plantation in Summerville. In 1960 Thomas J. Lipton Company pur- chased Pinehurst and moved the tea plants to Wadmalaw Island where they built a research fa- cility. In 1987, Mack Fleming and William Barclay Hall bought the land from Lipton and turned the Charleston Tea Plantation into a commercial op- eration. Today Charleston belongs to the Bigelow Tea Company. In Washington State, the Sakuma Brothers Farm has been growing its crop for the past 10 years, and since John Cross's experimental plot was established on Hawaii's Big Island in the 1980s, specialty teas from a number of growers on the different Hawaiian islands have been attracting a good deal of attention around the world. Recently it has come to light that for 15 years or more, others all over the US have been quietly growing tea or planning and preparing for tea cul- tivation projects, and there are now new tea farms, gardens and experimental plots in Alabama, Cali- fornia, North and South Carolina, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New York State, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. American Tea Tea is now grown in at least a dozen states and the idea of the crop as a viable commercial product is spreading. In this first of two articles, Jane Pettigrew details some of the new tea growing projects. Nigel Melican (left) and Bob Sims (center) view new plants with Anthony Mikel, agriculture instructor at Andalusia High School. A By Jane Pettigrew Why grow tea in North America? The tea plant seems to awaken a deep passion in those who grow it – people often treat their baby bushes almost like children who need attentive nurturing and constant care. But a love for the plants is obviously not enough when considering tea's commercial potential. At a recent meeting in Atlanta of the newly- formed US League of Tea Growers, Nigel Melican highlighted some of the reasons to consider tea as an agricultural enterprise: Retail sales of tea in the US are expected to reach a value of $15 billion in 2014 – up from just $1.8 billion in 1990, explains Melican. "The market is burgeoning and there is a strong trend in specialty teas. However there is distrust among some people of teas from traditional origins where pesticides and other plant protection agents may be used carelessly, and there is also a growing con- cern over food miles, so there are opportunities for new local origins such as the US and Canada," he said. "In North America, tea farmers welcome the idea of diversification. They are willing to use high tech automated and mechanized methods of har- vesting to offset their high labor costs, they will be positioned to be able to produce high value products that can be manufactured specifically to suit particular markets, and they will be able to compete with other specialty teas from countries such as China, Sri Lanka, India and Kenya," said Melican. Jason McDonald's new plants at Filoli Tea Farm, Lincoln County, Mississippi.

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