This years funeral for a scarecrow was a somber affair with a little sadness and ceremony.  My wife, Lottie wanted to leave it up but the clothes were faded and field mice had kicked out most of the straw.  So we brought him back to the barn and took him apart and maybe use some of the pieces for next fall.  We do this “funeral” at this time every year to mark the spring’s first flush on the tea plants where the buds swell, new leaves burst out and the tea rows turn a light green.  I always thought this would turn into bands, food trucks and a large crowd singing “The Old Rugged Cross,” but so far that has not been produced.  Anyway, Mr. Scarecrow has done another great job of keeping the crows out of the tea fields.

I have picked my first couple batches of yellow tea.  This is where I gather the first tiny opening buds and dry them without heat or sun.  It takes an hour just to get a small bowl of these buds and we only make a few batches of this, around four pounds a year.  It is by far our best tea.  I learned how to make this from a visiting Chinese gentleman several years ago who’s family were green tea makers.  Another way to make yellow tea is to ferment it while sealed in air tight bags.  This encourages the same anaerobic bacteria that gives black tea its bite and acidity but that only takes 2-3 hours while you ferment yellow tea in this process for five days.   This makes for a strong, lactic acid tea which I’ve only made once and threw it into the compost heap.  Ill continue to make my unfermented version and will have only about a week to make this this as the growth will go off and leave me to start making my best first flush green tea.

My good friend, Christine Parks, Camellia Forest & Nursery, Chapel Hill, NC, is speaking at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas this year , which is coming up soon.   She is going to talk about American tea producers and contacted me for an update so she could include the Fairhope farm in her presentation.  I am most honored, Thank You Christine!  I always though after I retired I would go to this large, annual event.  You can see a good coverage of it online, which I look at each year.  But my interest in attending has faded.  It is so commercial and makes me wonder how many tea pots and samples of tea do I need to look at.  It just does not appeal to me as I do not consider myself a commercial competitor with anyone.

My tea tours are still coming on fast and often.  I stay booked up catering to tourist who have “only today and tomorrow” to come visit.  I have reached the point that I will block out a day of two a week where I can take a 1:00 nap instead of doing a tea farm tour.  I do them every day and get a bit burned out at times.  Yesterday I did two and turned down five other groups who wanted to come visit.  These tours are where I sell my 300 pounds of tea a year so they will have to keep happening.

Remember tea farm tours are $10 per person and you will want to bring a little more cash to buy a small bag of tea.  You have to have a reservation unless you just want to drive up and purchase some tea.  Small children are not interested in my college level biochemistry class explaining the difference between green and black tea and usually don’t like the freshly brewed cup of tea.  We are approaching summer time where we have several types of insects who want your blood, dogs, chickens and screaming peacocks.  This is a farm and a visit is not a tea party with pastries and cookies where you sit around a table and talk to your family and friends.  It is a nuts and bolts class on how tea is grown and processed.  If that sounds good, come see us!

Donnie Barrett