Below is a letter that I wrote in response to a call for support from the researchers I met during the 1st annual tea growers round-up hosted by the USLTG earlier this year. Growers, retailers, supporters, and researchers spent time during that meeting to discuss the most important issues facing U.S. tea growers and as a result, they are in the process of submitting a substantial grant proposal that would include three universities and fund important tea research projects over five years.
- USLTG Blog post: Call for Letters of Support
- Mississippi Tea Project
- Become a Member of the US League of Tea Growers Today
[Submitted March 22nd, 2015]
Dr. Guihong Bi,
My name is Tygh Walters, an aspiring commercial tea (Camellia sinensis) grower from Athens, GA, and I am excited to support the federal grant proposal, “A systems approach to improve production, germplasm, and economic return for growing tea, an emerging specialty crop industry in the U.S.”
Tea is a ubiquitous beverage nationally and “sweet tea” is a hallmark of Southern culture, however, due to the virtual absence of commercially grown tea in the U.S., the tea that most Americans drink is almost exclusively sourced from foreign countries.
As an aspiring commercial tea grower, my role in the industry is to produce the highest quality tea crop by using the most effective, innovative, sustainable, and evidence-based methods, unfortunately, there is a dearth of research about all phases of tea production in the unique climate of the Southeastern U.S.
According to Peter F. Goggi of the Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc., total sales of tea in the U.S. had risen from $1.84 billion in 1990 to ~$10.84 billion in 2014. That’s a 589% increase over 24 years. I believe that as the U.S. demand for tea continues to rise, so will the demand for specialty, domestically produced teas, and there is a valuable and time-sensitive opportunity for tea growers in the U.S. to meet this demand, thus, making tea the next most important specialty crop in the U.S.
As a grower, I am interested in production methods, cultivar development, economic analysis, social impact, and environmental stewardship. In commercial production, tea is typically grown as a perennial shrub, similar to blueberries, and single plants can remain productive for over 100 years. Thus, tea could be utilized in USDA-supported Agroforestry systems such as silvopasture and alley cropping designed to conserve natural resources.
The USLTG (United States League of Tea Growers) and associated researchers have identified and developed key research goals pertinent to the current state of the U.S.-tea industry. Upon accomplishment of their goals, tea growers like me will be equipped with the necessary knowledge to begin growing tea in the U.S., therefore, I support the funding of the grant proposal, “A systems approach to improve production, germplasm, and economic return for growing tea, an emerging specialty crop industry in the U.S.”
Tygh Walters, M.S.
Piedmont Tea Co.
451 Seagraves, Dr.
Athens, GA. 30605