On June 8th of this year at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, an historic meeting took place: the founding meeting of The United States League of Tea Growers (USLTG). Yes, folks, now U.S. tea growers have a league of their own (just like those women baseball players in that movie — one of Madonna’s attempts at being an actress). But seriously, this is a big and important step in the world of tea.
Considering that China and India dominate in terms of volume of tea grown, with Kenya and Sri Lanka not far behind vying for third place, growing tea in the U.S. can seem almost like Jack versus that Giant living at the top of the beanstalk. All the more reason to band together — one of those “strength in numbers” situations. Spearheaded by tea expert Nigel Melican, USLTG has these goals (according to their slide presentation):
- To connect far flung tea growers for mutual benefit
- To form a platform for developing US specific tea knowhow, equipment, technology and cultivars on behalf of members
- To act as a catalyst for collaboration between US tea growers
- To foster agri-tourism both as an educational tool for increasing awareness of US grown tea and as an effective selling medium
- To promote demand for US tea grown
Awhile back, I posted an article about some U.S. tea growers (not intended as a definitive list). The info emailed out to a slew of tea bloggers shows this list of tea growing locations: Washington (state), Oregon, Hawaii, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Michigan. None of these really pops to mind as having the right climate, but surprisingly they do. Plus, with so many varietals/cultivars/clonals out there of the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis), there is probably a plant just right for each micro-climate. That’s where folks like Nigel come in, helping growers choose the right plants and care for them. It’s also where USLTG comes in, with growers connecting with each other and with experts who can help them not only get started but assure success.
Why is this such a hot issue now? Well, again they say it’s due to the following (from their slide presentation):
- Burgeoning US tea market
- Trend to Specialty tea
- Opportunities for novel origins
- High sales value supports higher production costs
- Distrust of some traditional origins
- Trend to localism – food miles concern
Let’s face it, it’s no longer just in Chinatowns across the U.S. or in fancy tearooms with names like “Ye Olde British-style Tearoom” where tea is served. Folks are getting their “tea fix” at home, in coffee shops, in specialty tea shops, and from online stores like the owners of this blog.
Yes, I’d say the time is ripe for this organization. And I’m sure they will do much to expand tea growing here in the U.S. Cheers!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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