Monday, March 15, 2010

Tea production is starting to get around

t2 reader Lucia, in Rome, forwarded some interesting information this weekend about tea being grown in Italy. I knew that tea was grown commercially in the Azores, just off the coast of Portugal, and that used to be the only production of tea within Europe. But now there are experiments to grow tea in England, and apparently they've been dabbling in tea nurseries for centuries in Italy. This article and this one (both PDFs) tell the tale of tea in Tuscany. More info here, too. (Thanks, Lucia!)

Tea production in the United States is active mostly at the Bigelow plantation in South Carolina and numerous new small growers in Hawaii. Some folks have even tried growing it in Washington state.

The postscript of Sarah Rose's new book about Robert Fortune's tea travels includes the fact that, in his later years, he was briefly employed by the U.S. government in 1857 to assess whether or not tea could grow here. He considered sites in Virginia, the Appalachias and the Carolinas. He then traveled back to China for tea seeds, which he sent to the U.S. Patent Office. They then fired him, thinking they could pursue the matter themselves. But the Civil War interrupted the research. "Although there were a few more attempts at establishing an American tea industry," Rose reports, "it died stillborn."

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