The end result of picking and pruning the tea bushes is to have the plants forced into this flat shape.  Although my photos do not show well what I’m trying to show, this shape will throw up a crop of buds and two leaves every three weeks or so.  This puts the perfect tea at your finger tips ease and you can pick a hand full at a time and not pluck one stem at a time.  It has gotten where I had rather pick these and sometimes bypass the traditional round top shape, I call “cup cake.”   I have lots of both.   Folks that use mechanical pickers require this flat shape but I do not use or want to use them.  I would say “never,” but I do change my mind about things as the years pass.   I will have to admit that, like every year at this time, the tea is growing faster that I can gather it.

A picking machine would be a step towards being a commercial producer and that is not my goal.  I could plant thousands of more tea bushes but I am not competing with Lipton or Tetley.  I am an artisan tea maker.  The same is true for mechanical tea dryers.  These are for commerical producers or those mimiciking commerical producers who do not mind the taste they produce.   I dry tea in a dry pen out in the sun.  It dries tea fast and is very efficient.   I know the USDA does not like “outside processing,” but that has no effect on me or my tea business.

Just reciently two tea farmers I have known for years have complained that plucking tea has gotten to be an overwhelming chore.  They have not pruned their bushes into these flat shapes and spend their time waving their arms around plucking one stem at a time.   You just can’t make much tea that way.  My entire shade garden is being bypassed again this year as I want to make my tea off these flat rows.  My friends also grow their tea under trees which I think makes the tea “lankie.”  To contradict myself, I have planted 20 long leaf pines and allowed several pin oaks to grow along my tea rows.  Tea produciers in higher elevations have warned that global warming is already starting to affect their production.  In the near future, a little shade might be nice.

I also have included a copy of the heading “Ten Things to Do in Fairhope.”  It seems they have dropped the Fairhope Museum (which I built 2005-2007) and put the tea farm on the list.  This will certainly bring me more visitors.  I have had a break from daily tours when it was 100 degrees every day for a week.  But it now has returned to the normal 90-95 degree range with rain.  I had a group of tea blending professionals here yesterday who seemed to enjoy the tour under umbrellas.  I usually call and cancel tours in the rain but they came a long distance to get here.

Again, call to make a reservation (251-928-0919) and bring cash for the $10 each ticket and to buy a little tea before you leave.  Our intense yellow fly invasion is all but gone, but we still have some mosquitoes,  dogs and peacock droppings hazzard out in the yard.   It’s a farm.  We do tours at 1:00 and 3:00 and I am getting where I had just as soon do one a day unless passing tourists only have a short time to visit.

You all drop by and I’ll have a pot of tea ready.

Donnie Barrett