CLASSIC TEA - GROWN IN AMERICA!
Almost all that tea you drink comes from third world countries.
Now a new approach: Tea grown in the U.S.A. This is a classic
example of the unusual type of investment opportunity that will
become even more common in the future.
Tea was first cultivated in ancient china more than 4000 years
ago. Unknown in England, home of today's true tea aficionados, until
1657, tea there remained the exclusive domain of the wealthy until
Tea's first global publicity occured on December 16, 1773 when
early American settlers staged the famous "Boston Tea Party."
disguised as Mohawk Indians, a gang of American patriots climbed
aboard the British ship carrying the unwanted cargo and hurled 342
chests of tea, forced on them by the British Authorities, into the
Boston Harbor. It wasn't so much the tea they were against as the
tax on tea. "Taxation without representation" became the rallying
cry behind the american revolution of 1776.
Since then tea has fitted in with the flag, Apple Pie and the
American dream. In 1839 the first sizeable shipment of Indian tea
came from Assam to Britain. The rest is history. In those days tea
used to be served from barrels (prior to reheating) much like draft
beer today. Times and tastes changed. Today, in America about
three-quarters of all tea consumed is iced. In Canada the figures
are about reversed with British Columbia leading (13 percent of all
drinks) the rest of the country (11 percent) in per capita
England, the first western country to import tea in Quantity,
leads the world in consumption followed by the U.S., Australia,
Canada and the Soviet Union, but tea, "grown in the U.S.A.", was a
rare item and failed miserably in past trials.
There were several reasons -- all restated by current experts
who came up with traditional reasons why it couldn't be done. Editor
Jane McCabe of the trade Journal "tea & coffee" said "It's too
expensive to grow tea in America." Don Wiederecht, an official of the
American Tea Council said "We don't have the soil and elevation
necessary to grow tea." Others said "U.S. Labor can't compete with
the $10 weekly salary in Sri Lanka".
All this failed to convince Mack Fleming, a horticulturist with
years of experience at the Thomas J. Lipton company. He had a dream.
He reasoned (radically it seemed to industry experts) that if wheat,
beans and corn could be grown in America and sold profitably overseas, tea could too. He just needed a better idea.
While still working as a consultant for Lipton's, Fleming was
approached by professional tea taster Bill Hall, a Canadian from St.
Boniface, Manitoba the scion of a long-time family of tea tasters.
He had the same dream.
The flamboyant Hall, who drives a flashy red Lotus sporting the
personalized licence plate "teapot", believed tea growing in the
SouthEastern U.S. could become an important industry. Between the
two of them, Fleming and Hall had the necessary experience -- all
the way from bush to teacup. Today they are equal partners.
Fleming revealed his "secret weapon" -- a mechanical "robot" tea
picker he designed while with Lipton's. It was part cotton picker,
part tobacco harvestor. It could do the work of 500 foreign tea
pickers. The two partners leased it from Lipton's.
After negotiating a $250,000 deal for an old 127-acre Lipton tea
farm and research station on Wadmalaw Island, near Charleston, South
Carolina, the Charleston Tea Plantation, Inc. was formed. A daring
banker produced $500,000 in operating capital.
A year ago Fleming and Hall revved up their secret weapon to
tackle a wide range of tea bushes now loaded with masses of new
leaves. No one claimed their tractor-like picker was beautiful, but
this wasn't a beauty contest. It was an economic and agricultural
showdown. And it worked. Going beyond mere picking, the machine
shears off the newest two inches (five centimeters) of bush growth.
The leaves are then brought inside and allowed to wither naturally
for 18 hours before being ground and air-dried.
Now Hall's expertise comes into action. Because the variety of
their 150,000 tea bushes span the aromatic spectrum (320 different
types of tea), Hall mixes different leaves until he produces his
"American Classic Tea' -- a new tea with a consistent flavor. The
first year's production was 22 million bags.
The tea, named "American Classic -- the only tea grown in
America', is currently retailing in the U.S. as a gourmet product.
The price is US $2.59 for 20 bags. A new crop is harvested every 18
days during the May to October season.
Hall and Fleming claim they can deliver fresh tea to retailers,
sometimes within a week of picking -- a speed foreign tea suppliers
will have difficulty matching.
Mack Fleming or Bill Hall,
Charleston Tea Plantation, inc.,
P.O. Box 12810,
Charleston, (Wadmalaw Island) South Carolina
Plantation tours are available by reservation during the summer
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