Flower in a tea plant at a Darjeeling Tea plan...

Image via Wikipedia Camellia sinensis, our precious drinking tea, not to be confused with Camellia japonica, which we prize for blossom in the winter.

If you are from a certain part of the country, usually rural, you will recognize the old saying: “It was a good year for peaches…or plums…or tomatoes, etc.” Many a gardener, farmer, or homemaker spending hours in a hot kitchen filling canning jars has marked a year by the exceptional bounty and fine taste of the produce of that year.

Our family still remarks on our good year for pecans. It was the first year in our new home built in the midst of a pecan orchard. That fall, the pecans fell on the tin roofs, sounding like gunshot, and we went around stepping on them in bare feet (then swearing), and picking them up, cracking them, munching on the sweet meat like crazy. Pecans were thick as a carpet beneath the trees, and we scooped them into buckets and had people come ask if they could scoop them, too. It was a good year for pecans, which was a contrast to the next year when the trees were barren as the proverbial baby’s behind, a circumstance caused by the weather in our area̶ — very cold previous winter, late frosts, and skimpy on the rain, too.

I thought of this recently as I sniffed and then sipped a Darjeeling tea from an estate I had never sampled. I found it definitely lacking as compared to the Darjeeling I had been drinking for months. “Not a good year for tea,” popped into my mind. It comes from the old farmer part of my genes (and jeans).

No matter the soil of the high mountains or the soil of the low country or the soil of the in-betweens, the tea plants will be affected by the amount of sunlight, rain, and temperatures they receive at varying times throughout the year, all things that man cannot control. Then there are things such as time of harvest — the flush period — and curing, packing, transporting, and storing. How was the weather throughout it all? Did everyone do their job correctly? A million things effect the tea before it reaches my cup, and all of it has been the constant worry and concern of tea growers from every country for centuries. No matter their nationality, traditions, religion or political stance, farmers throughout the world are the same, hoping for a good year for their crop.

Looking up hopefully at the pecan trees and watching the sky for spring rains that have not come, I then look back at my tea cup for long seconds in which a strong kinship with the tea growers and lovers everywhere washes over me. I find myself praying for the tea plants and estate farmers, people I don’t know but to whom I am eternally thankful. I can do without pecans, but I sure cannot do without my good cup of tea.

Where there’s tea, there’s hope. ~Arthur W. Pinero

You might enjoy reading about the tea plant — Camellia sinensis — at Dave’s Garden. You can also buy seeds and plants at the site.

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