This is the time of year where we prune our tea bushes in anticipation of the spring flush. The flush, or first spring growth comes early to tea. It buds out before most all the other bushes and plants which are still winter dormant. I often wish it would bud out later when we had more heat in the day which helps process the tea. What we are pruning off is the tea we did not pick and make last season. The tea grows faster than I can pick it. We really cut it back hard. If you did this to an upper story tree it would kill it. Most growers who push their production as hard as they can do not prune like this. They keep their bushes picked back to the heavy forks and branches called “knuckles.” We also are pruning off a ton of flowers. We do not do anything with the flowers like my good friend Christine Parks does. We don’t make seedlings where we make tea so pruning off the seed making flowers is not a problem.
As most any small business catering to the tourist trade we are doing a brisk business this time of the year selling Christmas presents. People like our labels with “FAIRHOPE” across the front. They buy several at a time. One lady last week bought 22 packs of teabags at one time. We are getting several drive-up’s a day wanting to buy tea. This morning I’ve sold four pounds of tea already. Its rather hard to go down to the barn or out pruning in the fields with cars coming up your driveway. I guess its a good thing as it will not last much longer and we will get back to just staying a little bit busy.
Also, this is the time of year to move seedlings for folks who want to start a tea garden. We have sold several thousand of them this fall. I still sell them for a dollar each for a bare rooted seedling and tell you how to prepare the ground and plant, cover and water all for free. I need to stop doing that but I just seem to enjoy helping people get into the tea business. What happens is in three years they contact me again wanting to learn how to make tea from the leaves and, I will tell them that too!
Yes, it is true that after the first of the year, only two weeks away, our fabulously popular tea tours will cost $20 per person. Its well worth it if you are interested in tea and how it is made. I have four days after Christmas still available so you need to call and make your reservation now!