I was overwhelmed from a text my Dad sent me recently showing two bags of black tea from the Great Mississippi Tea Company. I was shocked because 1) I've been following their progress closely and am very excited of the potential of tea production in the South, 2) they're doing whole leaf teas, making them worlds apart from the Charleston Tea Plantation, and 3) I had no idea their plants were mature enough for production.
The Great Mississippi Tea Company started in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed Jason McDonald's timber crop and was looking for a new crop to replace it. After visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation, he began an interest in planting tea. Through a partnership with Mississippi State University Extension Service office, they embarked on planting their now four acres of tea plants. What will low elevation, high humidity tea taste like? What natural mutations and characteristics will it have? #MadeInAmerica tea is something that I am completely supportive of and I followed Tealet's Tea Across America campaign years ago.
Unbeknownst to me, my father participated in the Adopt a Tea Plant campaign with the GMTC giving him access to the first teas produced by the plantation. Without waiting until the next time he visits me (expect lots of 'grams) I eagerly asked him to review the tea. Enjoy the sneak peek (and only review that I've found?):
There are currently 17 states here in the US that have some amount of tea production – not all of them sell commercially. Most of the domestic tea production comes from the Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina and the various farms in Hawaii. The Great Mississippi Tea Company is an up and coming tea plantation started in 2012 in Brookhaven, MS. They plan to expand to 150 acres by 2020 which would surpass the Charleston Tea Plantation’s 127 acres. As a participant in their “adopt a tea plant” promotion, I received the first fruits of their initial harvest processed as black tea.
I didn’t have a very high expectation for this tea because of the infancy of the tea plants and processing, and because my experience with Charleston Tea years ago was quite underwhelming. Well, I was surprised! The small, dry leaves were wiry and not very tippy with buds – mostly with one or two leaves on the stem. The aroma out of the bag was immediately familiar to me. It was very reminiscent of China black teas from Fujian Province like Golden Monkey (Fuding), Shan Xiao Zhong (Wu Yi), or Bailin Gongfu (Fuding). Perhaps a similar plant varietal is used in Mississippi. A medium red/brown liquor is produced and the aroma is even more pronounced. The flavor reminds me of dried fruit with a very smooth taste and lingering aftertaste.
I really like this distinctive flavor profile and was pleasantly surprised to find it growing in Mississippi. The folks at The Great Mississippi Tea Company are still experimenting with their processing technique and also have plans to produce green, and then oolong teas in the near future. Based on their early black tea production which I heartily recommend, I will eagerly anticipate their future offerings. Their aim is to boldly build from scratch a sustainable, organic tea plantation to produce high quality teas in the US and they seem to be off to a great start.