Here is a photo of 10 pounds of very hot black tea.  I had a batch to start to spontaneously combust.  I took it out and dumped in the compost heap and the next day the compost heap was on fire!  It took twice hoseing it down to put the fire out.  I know exactly what happened as I was pushing my production capacity and was processing a bit more that I can handle.  I had four batches ready to toast and made the big mistake of piling one batch on top of the other.  This allowed an anarobic fungus, the same in a pile of wood chips, to start growing.  It was my mistake.

We dry our black tea in the sun down to about 8-10 % moisture content, then toast it in an oven for a short amount of time on a low setting.  This gets the moisture down to 5% and below which is right for storage in large mylar bags.  The untoasted tea has enough moisture to support fungal growth (7%), it was covering it up with another blanket of tea that made the environment to suport fungus growth.  Most producers dry their tea in an oven and question why we toast our black and Oolong.  Toasting unquestionably produces a richer, more robust brew.  I call it “fractioning the flavinoid structures.”  We do not toast Green tea as most everyone else does.  I thing it damages the delicate sugars and starches.

Our tea farm has been killer busy.  We have made over 200 pounds and am shooting for the 300 we need to keep tea in stock all year.   It got us way behind having a 9 day monsoon during the end of August.   In the heat I only do one tea tour a day and then pluck the bushes in the afternoon.  In July we had a tour every day, except the day a friend died and the day of his funeral.  I was turning down additional requests almost everyday too.  It has been a real hustle having to produce product and package and label our sales units.  I guess I got what I wished for many years ago.

We are now approaching the seedling sales we do every fall.  I have already sold thousands and have scheduled many customers to come between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If you are one of those who wants plants, and have not reserved a time slot and plants you need to call me now.  This includes a class on how to grow them.  You (I may help a bit) will crawl around under the bushes, pulling up the bare rooted plants and wrapping in wet paper and put in plastic bag.  No pots or dirt.  I am selling them still for only $1 each but that will change after this season.  Get in on that bargan basement price now, “while supplies last.”  These seedlings have a pedigree as they are seedlings from under the three different original plants that I recovered from the Lipton demostration in the 1970’s.    These seedlings are called the F1 generation.

If you are planning on a visit to see us, remember we only accept small groups.  With three or less we ride down the wooded tea trails then out in the open fields which is a much better tour than walking.  I will stop so guests can see what we are talking about without them having to get off the golfcart.   Small kids are not interested in tea or my class on tea craft, horticulture and forestry.  We have polite, well mannered dogs.  We have the same bugs that are found all over Alabama.  Bring CASH, as we don’t accept plastic.  $10 each.  And, bring a bit more because after talking about tea for an hour you will want to buy some.  Individual cup size tea bags are 30 for another $10.  I like tours at 1:00 and do them every day.  Come see us!

Donnie Barrett