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  • #9716

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    Jackie – thanks for keeping me up to date!  No, I had not seen this news item though I have in the past spoken with Oscar of Suki Tea.  And yes, I agree they might need some help.  While Northern Ireland has a somewhat sheltered clime it is no way like hot ‘n humid Tanzania – I always import tough-guy teas for cold wet places – I would be putting in plants from Georgia or Turkey or Korea, where the bushes are used to winters with snow and ice and lack of sunshine.  With skill it can be done in the time – but most back yard tea enterprises fail because of basic mistakes.  Even Ray Fong in San Francisco who knows a thing or three about tea growing killed all but a handful of his nursery plants a year back by assuming that California tap water is the same as Chinese tap water.

  • #9159

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    Yes, Dan, I think this is a shrewd analysis.  Also to pitch into the pot is the groundswell (OK, just a ripple compared with the potential) of US based specialty tea growers and newbie tea growers with their eye on home production of a local, low carbon, sustainable, high quality product.  A few years ago Charleston could claim to be America’s only tea garden – now check out the pins in the map – Hawaii, Washington State, Oregon, California, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida – where next?

  • #9064

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    Jackie, your comment raises several very good points – as an
    excellent comment should.  However in
    this particular thread I cannot necessarily answer as freely as in some
    others.  My position as a consultant is foremost
    to serve my clients and this generally requires me to adopt a confidential and guarded
    persona to maintain and protect their proprietary information.  In direct opposition to this is my personal inclination
    as a researcher and teacher to share information freely and widely, and to encourage
    others to build upon it.  Therefore I often
    have to tread a fine line.

    I would be happy to discuss the merits and drawbacks of side
    harvesting versus flat-top harvesting and how a given number of plants can be
    considered a large planting on the one hand and a small one on another – but not
    on this thread which is effectively linked in name to one of my clients. 

    Maybe – if there is sufficient interest in understanding the
    mechanics of tea growing in a general sense we could have a “technology corner”
    on @teatra.de ?

    Nigel at Teacraft

  • #9007

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    The CNN presenter is talking about a tea industry in Sri Lanka that I do not recognize in 30 years of working with it.  He is talking about bonded labor surviving from Colonial days in a country where labor laws are very strictly applied – personally knowing the country and the industry – I have not seen it happen, I have not heard about it happening, I cannot believe it happens.  He seems locked into what happened 150 years ago when the Tamils were brought over to Sri Lanka from India (for the coffee industry, not for tea) and endeavouring to find it still.  Yes, I have seen people sleeping on tea leaf, not because they have been (as he suggests) working for 24 hours – but for a siesta.  Many tea factories in Sri Lanka even have dormitories with bunk beds so that their labor can sleep over before early morning shift (Great Western Tea Factory for example). Sorry CNN you should be looking closer to home for trafficking.

    Nigel at Teacraft

  • #9005

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    Shows the power of social networking in general and Tea Trade Forum in particular.  From Jackie’s first post revealing FiLoLi Farm’s proposed tea venture to finding and signing up Teacraft as technical consultant took just 15 days. 10/10 to teatra.de for an excellent site and 10/10 to Jason for swift decisive action.

    Nigel at Teacraft

  • #8689

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    *Absolutely correct – to compete with Asia and Africa the USA grower must reduce COP and increase margins.  The specialty tea boom takes care of the latter.  Ultra efficient labor use by automation, mechanization and cutting edge technology takes care of the former  Not just in harvesting but in nursery, planting, and husbandry. and in processing too.  Marketing must be directed at high end specialty teas (not commodity teas), plus an agri-tourism package crafted to suit the individual grower’s USP.

    Jason – you are right about harvesters – I have been an advocate of the rail supported harvester ever since I saw a prototype in Japan in 1995 – adjustability of table by +/- 1mm and no bouncing.  The Charleston harvester is a dinosaur from a former time

    Thanks for the invite, next time I am in the South I would love to talk tea with you.  Meantime let me have your contact email (to: nigel (at) teacraft (dot) com and I will send you our capability brochure.

    Nigel at Teacraft

  • #8687

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    *Hi Jason.  A little history about Charleston Tea Farm will make things clear.  In the 1890s Dr Charles Upham Shephard planted tea in Summerville, SC using USDA purchased seed obtained from China.  By 1899 he was producing 500lb tea there. He made additional plantings with Assam seed at Pinehurst bringing the total production to 3,000lbs. However the venture lapsed with Shepard’s death.

    In the 1960s TJ Lipton decided to try tea planting in the US.  They acquired the Pinehurst collection of very overgrown bushes and transferred them to an old citrus farm on Wadmalaw Island, about 20 miles east of Charleston, SC.  This became the Lipton Tea Research Station and ran as such from 1965 to 1985.  They made selections from the Pinehurst material and planted up 300 of these – you can see them still in Field 1 of the Bigelow farm.  From selections they produced elite cultivars, some with the assistance of Clemson University. In the 80s I worked occasionally at the Lipton Station.  One of the research objectives was to test the viability of tea growing in the USA.  Out-stations were established in AL, TX, GA and test material planted.  The material at Fairhope was ripped up by a hurricane and the planting abandoned there.  It was from these bushes that Donnie Barratt’s father (the out-station supervisor) rescued a few and planted them up as a curiosity.  The three bushes still survive and provided seed and cuttings for Donnie’s farm.  Meanwhile Lipton turned their eyes towards Hawaii as a better place for US tea production and went into JV with sugar growers Alexander and Baldwin – TJL providing the plant material.  This venture foundered due to cost of production, but an employee of A&B took clones to Oregon – and some of these were eventually planted up in Bellingham, WA.  I was working on tea for Unilever from 1979 and imported Charleston clones to the UK where we grew 500 bushes.  I also exported Charleston clones to Pakistan for a Unilever tea growing venture, and to Colombia for another Unilever venture into tea growing.  

    TJ Lipton closed the Charleston Station is 1986 – it was acquired by former manager Mack Fleming and tea taster Bill Hall.  They ran the place for 10 years but the venture did poorly – it was ahead of the speciality tea boom – and ended acrimoniously and the banks foreclosed.  In around 2002 Bill Hall and Bigelow bid for the virtually derelict site and I acted as technical consultant for 3 years rehabilitating the plantings.  The subsequent success of Charleston Tea Farm is a credit to some good marketing riding the back of the specialty tea boom.

    Subsequently I re-exported some of the original Charleston clones that had been proven in Pakistan back to Hawaii, as well as 30,000 clonal cuttings from South Africa.

    So Jason, you will see that though Bill Hall is (rightly or wrongly) adamant about not selling his plants (Dr Shepard’s plants actually), that by courtesy of Lipton a lot of new tea ventures in the world are now firmly based on this original material.

    Nigel at Teacraft

  • #8669

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    Geoffry – see http://gulfcoastfoodways.wordpress.com/tag/fairhope-tea-plantation/.  Donnie is director of the Fairhope municipal museum and apparently this is in conflict with him running a tea selling business so he no longer actively sells.  However his contact details are in the public domain: see http://411.info/people/Alabama/Fairhope/Barrett-Donnie/26461196.html so you might be able to persuade him for a sample.  I preferred his black (hard withered like a Darjeeling) to the green, but both creditable hand made teas.

    Nigel at Teacraft

  • #8666

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    I visited with Donnie Barratt at Fairhope AL two weeks ago.  He has 40,000 tea bushes on his farm which derive from the Lipton collection that now forms the base of Bigelow’s Charleston Tea Farm, and he makes and sells his own tea.  Donnie has used Chinese methodology for planting and his processing is self taught – he is would be the first to admit he could have done things faster and better with appropriate advice.  I have a great respect for Chinese tea production methods – but they are not appropriate for US tea growing conditions.  American tea planters need to test and forge their own ways rather than blind copy others.  American tea planters also need to work together, sharing information, rather than jealously guarding their secrets.  The US specialty tea market is broad enough for all to prosper – but the investment in knowledge required to make US production cost effective leaves no room for endless parallel reinventions of the wheel.   

    Nigel at Teacraft 

  • #8629

    teacraft
    Participant
    @teacraft

    Hi Jason @filoli-farms.  I am currently, or have recently been, technical consultant to five different tea growers in the USA (large and small).  It’s an exciting concept and challenge – to balance the disadvantage of US high labor cost against the advantage of access to cutting edge technology in an industry that has resolutely ignored innovation for centuries.  Should you need nursery, planting, harvesting, or processing advice based on 30 plus years of hands on practical experience in 26 tea growing countries, then please contact me: nigel (at) teacraft (dot) com or (twitter) @teacraftecm.

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)

teacraft

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@teacraft

active 3 years, 11 months ago