Good morning friends,
I hope this note finds you and your families healthy. Many of you have listened to me talk about this project for years. Thank you for your patience and for the insight and guidance you have provided. After thousands of hours of field work, hundreds of ant bites, lots of sore muscles, and seven stitches, we are ready to introduce Longleaf Tea Company.
In 2011, I was sitting in a tea shop in Shanghai speaking with the shopkeeper. She asked where we grow our tea in the United States. I replied that while we consume a lot, it is almost all imported. We just do not grow much tea in the United States. When asked “why not”, I did not have a good answer. And thus, the seed was planted.
I spent the next seven years researching tea farming, processing, climate requirements, and market needs. In 2014, I tried to germinate my first batch of tea seeds on our back porch. I killed all 50. Those would not be the last plants we would lose as we continued practicing and learning. Finally, in 2018, we moved back to Mississippi. We were home - it was time.
We planted our first block of 1,200 plants in October 2018. Another 1,000 were planted in 2019. We also have 1,000 seedlings in the nursery and 1,400 seeds germinating in a seed bed. Last year, we purchased and imported processing equipment from China. We are beginning our recipe trials this spring and will develop our first specialty black tea product. Finally, in 2021, we will bring it to your cup.
This project has been an adventure. More than anything, we have learned that producing something special takes more time, work, and help than we ever imagined. We have also learned to accept nature’s timing. Losing plants after an unexpected freeze or incredibly rainy winter have been as much a part of this journey as watching the plants break bud in spring, explode in the summer, and flower in the fall.
We would love for you to follow our story on social media (IG and FB). I will be posting notes and photos from the field over the next few months. You can sign up for these field notes at our website, www.longleaftea.co. Finally, thank you for reading this far, thank you for your friendship, and thank you for joining us in this adventure.
Thomas & Hillary