Growing Tea in Oregon
In the middle of April I took a trip to the Great Mississippi Tea Farm near Brookhaven, MS. I attended a 3 day meeting and workshop by the US League of Tea Growers, of which I am a proud member. We spent most of our time at the Great Mississippi Tea Farm with Jason McDonald and Timmy. They have been growing tea for approximately 6 years, and have done an incredible amount of fact finding, testing, experimenting on how to grow tea in the USA. They are a fantastic example of how we can make it work.
Industry experts are predicting that between climate change and labor shortages, it will be harder and harder to get tea from Asia at the quantity and price that we are used to. The world is changing, and tea is changing with it. We need to begin to rethink the possibilities of growing tea in new places. Already tea is being grown in various regions of Africa, some in the Middle East, and the Americas, but it is a very small portion of the world’s tea.
Being an avid gardener and growing up in the lush forests of Oregon, I have a deep appreciation for growing plants. As the world is changing, it is becoming increasingly important to grow as much of our food locally as possible. Daunting as that sounds, we can grow a considerable variety of the foods we consume every day if we are conscious about it. I first discovered growing tea in Oregon a few years ago when I read an article about the 1/2 acre plot of tea at Minto Island Farms near Salem, OR. It turns out that tea grows quite well in Oregon! It is a Camellia after all. This quickly set me on a quest to grow my own tea, but finding plants and seeds, and knowledge about how to grow it is sparse. Even if I could figure out how to grow it, finding out how to process the leaf into the variety of teas we know was even more mysterious.
I was blown away by the knowledge Jason and Timmy had, not simply from doing research, but by trial and error, the loss of thousands of plants, making batches of tea that were wonderful, and others that we undrinkable. It takes a lot of time and dedication. Their generosity in shared this hard earned knowledge with the group of us touched me deeply. I arrived home with my my questions answered (thank you Jason and Timmy for patiently answering my hundreds of questions!), and first hand knowledge of how possible it all is.
Producing Tea in Oregon is a reality. I’m going to do my best to make it, and share it. Come with me on my journey!
Interested in growing your own?
For more information about joining the US League of Tea Growers visit: https://usteagrowers.com/