For a long time, the Charleston Tea Plantation was the only commercial tea producer in the United States. But as Americans drink more tea, leaning into foreign flavors like matcha and trends like nitro tea, American farmers want to get in on the movement. And they’re doing so, according to NPR, who reports that the United States now has 60 producers growing tea in 15 states.
With many Americans wanting to “Buy American” and support their local economies, growing tea here in the United States made sense to farmers.
Tea grower Elizabeth Miller told NPR, “It’s the energy and enthusiasm from consumers that’s propelling us forward. People are really excited to have tea that is U.S. grown.”
As the number of tea growers increased, there was enough demand to from The United States League of Tea Growers, which strives to connect US tea growers and promote the industry by sharing knowledge and launching initiatives like tea-based agri-tourism.
And tea plants aren’t just growing in the south, like you might expect, where a mild climate with sufficient rain makes growing camellia sinensis most auspicious. Rather, farmers in northern states like Michigan and Oregon are starting tea farms as well.
Here is a list of American tea farms to consider supporting:
Minto Island Growers | Salem, Oregon | www.mintoislandtea.com
The Minto Island Growers have been planting camellia sinensis since 1988. Their teas are certified organic, handpicked, and harvested in small-batches. The farmers grow green, oolong, and black teas.
The Great Mississippi Tea Company | Brookhaven, Mississippi | www.greatmsteacompany.com
The Great Mississippi Tea Company strives to be an example of fair labor and environmental practices. The company began by planting 30,000 tea plants on 5 acres of land in 2014.
Table Rock Tea Company | Pickens, South Carolina | http://www.tablerocktea.com
This South Carolina tea grower got things started with just 400 tea plants in 2009, but has much bigger plans: The company planted 7,000 tea plants last year, and plans to add 17,500 plants per year for the next few years. The company’s products include Jacked Black Original Black Tea and Hillbilly Yaupon. Table Rock was a 2016 finalist for the “Best Tea Brand” award at the World Tea Awards. 10% of all sales go to charity.
Piedmont Tea Company | Athens, Georgia | www.piedmonttea.com
This new, organic tea company launched in 2014 under Tygh Walters, who also serves as the President of the US League of Tea Growers
Sakuma Brothers Premium Teas | Skagit Valley, Washington | http://sakumamarketstand.com
Brothers Richard and Steve Sakuma decided to add tea plants to their berry farm in Washington in 2007. They planted tea over five acres, and have had their fair share of struggles planting tea in the cold Washington weather. Teas from the brothers have included green and oolong.
Since tea plants take three years to mature to the point that they can be harvested, we have not yet seen the fruits of many new producers’ labor. But as farmers get on the tea train, we’re sure to see more and more American-made tea products on the market in the coming years.