This photo was taken in 2000, where I started planting the tea plants in 1979.  I had left this site some ten years before and bought a farm twelve miles away to enlarge my operations.  These bushes in the photo are the original plants and clones of the original tea plants I recovered from the Lipton tea experiment burn piles.  The first three I recovered are the two on the right and the one on the left.  Behind them are fifty foot rows of plants I made from rooting cuttings from the original plants that extend across two empty lots my parents owned.  There are hundreds of plants there as I was very industrious.

When I first started this was an open pine savannah with little understory and ten years after I was gone my parents started making it look like a back yard.  They later put three utility buildings on top of the rows you can’t see on the left thinking I would not come back to use the tea bushes. I had been to China where I stole technical secrets and learned how to make tea.  I started selling tea around 1990 and have ever since.  My first tea was not very good.  We have evolved immensely!

This area is now heavily over grown and my daughter and her family live there.  The bushes are big and tall so I do not make any tea there but this is my nursery where I produce seedlings to sell.  There is still tons of hurricane debris from Hurricane Sally two years ago which blocks seedling growth.  It does not produce the number of plants as it did for years but still the plants are F1 generation plants from the original Lipton plants.  Tea plants with a pedigree!  Others have named my famous cultivar “Fairhope Select.”

I sold over 5000 last year but have only sold 3000 this year.  Seems not so many people want to get in the tea business.  Also they seem to want to “try” only a few instead of hundreds.  Customers have made up their minds how they want to grow and pick tea and then change their minds after my hour long “how to grow” class.  I began with “tea growing is forestry and not gardening.”  I find that not all my plant customers are successful because the don’t  follow my advice on soil, sun, water and feeding.  One customer said “Florida is the sunshine state so the plants will have to get used to it.”  He lost most all his stock.

I recommend moving seedlings between Thanksgiving and Christmas but will sell them when someone wants to buy them.   Come on down and I will sell you a handful for only a dollar each.  That price, like everything in this world is bound to go up.

Also, while I am here, we are getting drive up’s every day ready to take the tea tour.  A couple got out of the car yesterday saying “Where do we start?”  You need an appointment to come visit and take a tour.  It takes me only 30 min to brew a fresh pot of tea and get ready but I do need a little led time, so call first.  And, tours are $10 each cash.

We are pruning now but the flush is only weeks away.  Come check it out!

Donnie Barrett