Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Finding Tea in L.A.


If you're from the South, you already know the old joke about how, in our neck of the woods, "L.A." refers not to Los Angeles but rather to Lower Alabama. So I was especially amused by the title of an article I found in Fairhope, Ala., "Lower Alabama Oolong." It is about -- are you ready for this? -- a place in Alabama that grows tea, the Fairhope Tea Plantation!

There's a tea plantation in Fairhope, Ala.? How had I never heard of this before? This is exciting news! Once I knew I'd be going to Fairhope, I googled "tea" and "Fairhope" and found a blog post from a lady in Louisiana who recently visited the tea plantation as part of a tour. I also found Fairhope Tea Plantation mentioned on the web site of The Church Mouse, one of the merchants in downtown Fairhope, shown here.

The Church Mouse sells, among other things, teawares, tea books, British specialty foods, and tea from the Fairhope Tea Plantation. An article was on display next to the tea, and I was delighted when the kind lady at the store gave me a copy of the article along with the bag of tea I purchased.

With article and tea safely in a gift bag, I continued on with my shopping, ending up with a great piece of tea-themed needlework (more on THAT to come) and the Lipton teapot from yesterday. The DH actually started reading the article while I loaded a few packages in the car, and he asked if I'd known that Lipton Tea Company once had an experimental crop of tea growing at Auburn's Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope. Well, noooo, I did not know that!

According to the article in the Baldwin County Guide (no date listed), Donnie Barrett of Fairhope began his tea-growing hobby when Hurricane Frederic blew away the experimental crop. "Workers gathered the strewn tea plants in a pile and burned them, but Barrett rummaged through the discarded heap and found three plants that hadn't burned," the article said. "Although he didn't know their variety names, he nursed them back to health and then began growing and cross-pollinating until he came up with his own variety, 'Camellia Sinensis Fairhope.'"

At the time the article was written (and I'm trying to find out precisely when that was), Barrett had more than 20,000 plants. He's obviously still growing tea, because the tea I purchased tasted very fresh. It was quite delicious, very "pure," I would say, and the article said Barrett produces 50 pounds of tea each year and sells out, all without marketing. Fun stuff, and I'm still just astonished to have learned of a second tea plantation here in the U.S.!

5 comments:

  1. Very interesting! Earlier this year I actually was looking for US grown tea, and all I found with googling was a plantation in South Carolina.

    Just shows ya: google doesn't know everything!

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  2. What a great discovery! A new tidbit of tea trivia for me to share with the DAR on Saturday as I speak on the subject of Tea in Colonial (and contemporary) America. Thanks, Angela!

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  3. Wow! That's very cool! And I did not know this, either!

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  4. Bernideen's TeaTime BlogDecember 9, 2008 at 7:47 PM

    Hi Angela: I only knew about the Charleston Tea Plantation - wow- this is interesting.

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  5. The Alabama tea plantation is a well-kept secret! Fairhope sounds like a nice place to visit.

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