Yes, it is the “dead of winter” here even though it is 70 degrees outside.  We are not picking tea now but are involved in many tea field activities, almost every day.  It is like a Christmas tree farm that is active all year and not just at Christmas time.

We are doing lots of pruning now, mostly cutting off long shoots of growth that was not needed when making tea.  This is usually done in winter before “the sap rises” in the spring.  We do this with a cordless hedge pruner.  It takes weeks.   We also are cutting down the 20+ year old bushes to about 18 inch stubs that will quickly explode in new growth.  The old plants look like tea bonsais and I really hate to cut them with heavy loppers.  This cuts the round, traditional shaped tea bushes, I call “cup cake” shaped, down to a flat table shaped I call “pancake.”

We are still enjoying a good drive up business.  We usually get several visitors a week.   I brewed tea for 190 people last weekend.  They were very complimentary.  The amount of tea I made during last year has worked out well as I will almost sell out just when the new season starts.  Spring comes early to tea and we expect our first flushes to be in mid-March.

I was just asked if we sprayed insecticide on all our tea.  We fight no insect pest here and have never sprayed anything on any of our tea bushes.  A tea mite researcher said because of this, our tea has a very healthy community of good mites.

Then there is the question of chemical fertilizer.  I have not used such in 11 years.  But, recently I have had two tea specialists horticulturist tell me my bushes are looking a tad undernourished.  So I have just added this year a very light sprinkle of 8-8-8 to my tea bushes.  I am not expecting to see any amazing results, just the same flush I get every year.

A major Alabama hemp grower has approached me recently.  Seems the Alabama hemp laws are changing after these folks invested thousands into land and equipment.  They now can not sell raw hemp unless it is processed.  Processed with tea???  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?  It may be a good thing if I give them tea to process their hemp. It is not a obligation on my part.

I am also contemplating buying a tea bag machine.  We lose sale after sale because folks just do not know how to brew loose leaf tea.  I have always resisted buying such a machine but in the future I just may need to do so.

We are expecting a supper year of tea production.  Come by for a visit and I will serve you a cup.

Donnie Barrett