STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 3, Number 2

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STiR tea & coffee industry international 67 to hit the window of opportunity. It is a race against the clock. We cannot compete unless we can garner higher prices for our tea - plain and simple. Collaboration is the only way we can do this," said McDonald. Growers are very positive about the League. Rob Nunally in Hawaii said the league of tea growers is a good idea. "There is a trend for consumers to buy lo- cally produced farm products. Having more tea grown in the US will help to accommodate this trend. If more tea is grown here more information can be gathered about growing in different regions and what types of plants work best in those regions," he said. In California Babette Donaldson called it "a vitally important project for education. It may be some time – if ever – before our tea crops could be commercially successful. On the other hand, having small gardens in every state may well become part of tourism and edu- cation. I can visualize partnerships with retailers that will support the growth of the entire industry." In Florida, tea gardener Jennifer Forehand said "the idea of folks with a common interest getting together to share & encourage & learn from each other is a wonder- ful thing. I think it could be of great benefit, especially in raising general awareness & elevating interest in tea, here in America." The Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida At the well-known Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina, Bill Hall has overseen tea production since 1987 and, in partnership with the Bigelow family, current owners of the plantation. Hall manages every aspect of the day-to-day running of the 127-acre plantation and the factory which is the home of American Classic Tea, marketed by Bigelow. In North Carolina, Camellia Forest Nursery has cultivated tea plants for more than 35 years and today sells the plants to a growing number of tea farmers and hobbyists across the country. Owner Christine Parks explains "Our mission has been to make tea available to meet a broad range of interests from curious tea lovers to avid gardeners and small-scale farmers. We receive so many requests from people who want hundreds of plants to add to their small farms." Parks and her husband David selected cultivars known to thrive in cooler regions such as China, Japan, South Korea and Georgia in Eastern Europe. Customers often buy different varietals from the nursery in order to test which grow best in local climates and soils. "We are working to crossbreed our cold hardy varieties with other favorites in our tea garden but it will take many years of growth and observation to identify which of these crosses might survive similar temperatures," she said. The Parks recognize the need for diversity and are working to also nurture more 'tender' cultivars that may suit more southerly regions of the US and will adapt to possible climate change in the future. Also in North Carolina, wholesale grower Cam Too Camellia Nursery in Greens- boro, is developing three Camellia sinensis plants alongside their vast collection of ornamental Camellias. The company offers customers a sinensis, an assamica and a red leaf varietal. At Tsubaki Camellias Inc., in Savannah, Ga., owner Debbie Odom has developed many different tea varietals from seed to suit different environments and different climates. Odom grows her clonal varieties in two different locations, one near the cost and another about 50 miles inland and both areas enjoy high humidity and a relatively mild climate, which suits the camellia sinensis. And in Florida, Jennifer Forehand has been growing tea plants near Pensacola for the past two years. Her seedlings were sourced from a nursery in Palatka, Fla., and are the Ya'an varietal from Sichuan, China. After growing in pots for 18 months, the developing bushes were planted in fertilized soil in March 2013. Pests and high temperatures are the main challenges. Florida can also be quite chilly in winter, but Forehand is hopeful that in a few more years, the bushes will be sturdy enough for her to hand process different types of tea. Rob Nunally plugging leaf cuttings at a Grow Tea workshop on Hawaii island. Hawaiian tea garden Onomea Bay.

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