I had a five year old tourist said he was relieved that my scarecrow was not too scary.   He was likely thinking how circus clowns are depicted today.   This years scarecrow has a lighthearted, almost comical look.  I leave the scarecrows up until the first flush of tea then we celebrate the spring with a funeral for a scarecrow.

This was not a good year for us tea production wise.  First, the unusual March freeze burned my new first flush growth.  Just frost bit the very tips just enough to make the finished tea a bit burn-bitter.  I lost many pounds of tea when that happened and it took a month to out grow it.  Then the spring weather was unusually cool.  Instead of 75 degrees in the mornings, it was 60 degrees.  The tea just was not growing during March, April and half of May.  My wife was saying “Are you going to pick tea?” and I’d say “there is nothing to pick.”

Then the weather turned  really hot fast.  The tea finally started to grow when it was 95 degrees every day.  You had to be really careful out in the fields, moving in slow motion, drinking tons of water and not pushing yourself.  That cut my production down, also.  I ended up this year producing only 184 pounds of green and black tea.  That is one hundred  pounds short of what I need to make the year the way I operate.

Now, I have also developed a trove of enthusiastic, regular tea fans.  “My wife will not drink anything else,” or “I make a pot of your black tea everyday and take it to work,” I hear in my driveway most every day selling tea to drive-up’s.  I have customers now buying tea by the pound instead of the small bags of teabags.  This is really chopping into my already diminished supply.   I have not sold out of tea since the mid 1990’s when I first went into business all year long but with the poor yield this year and increased demand, selling out just may happen this year.

Here comes the bad news.  I am about to raise my prices for tea tours.  It is not that I need more money for any expenses or overhead cost, I just want to have less tea tour demand.  Every morning around 8:30-9:30 am, tourist plan their day and I get three calls a day wanting to come over “today or tomorrow.”  I do tours most every day, unless I plan on something else.  I turn away many more guests that I can entertain.  Also, so many tourist don’t buy any tea after the tours so $10 for an hour and a half of my time telling folks about by lifetime experience of tea producing is just not good use of my time.  This will happen several tours in a row.   I question myself, “Why am I doing this?”  So, beginning January 1, 2024, my tea tours are going to be $20 per person.

I also have learned that my tea producing friends to the west are selling their tea for $90 per pound, and my friends to the east are selling their tea for $380 (!!) per pound.  I have been selling my half pound bags of loose leaf green and black tea for $15 each.  That’s $30 per pound.  So after the first of the year the loose leaf bags will go from 8 ounces to 6 ounces and will carry the hefty price of $20 per unit.  I guess its a sign of the inflated times we live in.

I’ve known this pessimistic, bad news was coming and I’ve hesitated to write it out, but here it is.  One of my advisors tells me that I will still be overwhelmed with tour request, I will just make more money.  That’s OK, I guess, we will see how it goes.

Donnie Barrett