US League of Tea Growers Gains Steam

As previously reported by World Tea News, Nigel Melican and Jason McDonald have formed a group of US-based tea farmers called the US League of Tea Growers. The founding meeting of the US League of Tea Growers was held at World Tea Expo last month. Nearly 60 people attended the inaugural meeting. Nigel Melican, Director of Teacraft, sheds light on the mission and next steps of this exciting venture.thumb_tpeep_nigel_melican240px.jpg

Q: What is the mission of US League of Tea Growers?

A: Primarily to link up the disparate growers of tea in the USA currently spread across 14 states and 5,000 miles.  There are 2.2 million farmers in the US but less than 50 tea farmers – so it’s a rather lonely and isolated occupation.  We aim to help US tea farmers to collaborate, cooperate and to share information and solve problems together.  There is a fast increasing demand for US grown tea – perceived as less likely to be spiked with pesticides and contaminants, to have a more transparent supply chain, to be more fairly traded and to have accumulated less food miles than imported tea.  Tea growing in the USA cannot compete head on with traditional growing in low cost producer countries – unless it is US grown high value specialty tea utilizing low labor high technology methods in the field and for processing.  It is that cutting edge technology that the US League of Tea Growers aims to foster and disseminate to existing and wannabe tea growers alike – and to interest and educate the consuming public about how US grown tea is grown and made.  This latter aim will be fulfilled by agri-tourism including farm visits plus harvesting and processing workshops on the farms.

Q: What do you feel you accomplished at the inaugural meeting at World Tea Expo last month?

A: We demonstrated that there was considerable interest in grower collaboration  – at the founding meeting we had attendance of grower representatives from six States and a further five expressed interest in membership.  We achieved a high degree of interest from the tea trade and raised public awareness of the US League of Tea Growers.  We went away with practical offers of assistance in setting up the USLTG as an organization.

Q: What are your next steps?

A: We have formed an interim committee of volunteers and are preparing a constitution and framework for the organization.  We have established a social media presence on Twitter (@usgrowntea), LinkedIn (Group: US League of Tea Growers) and Facebook (Page: US League of Tea Growers). We have registered domain names and are working on a website.  We will have more discussion and ratification of constitution amongst founding members and a formal launch of the organization in October 2013.

Q: Is there another event coming up that interested parties could attend?

A: Yes, we shall have our formal launch in Atlanta at World Tea East.  All interested parties and potential members are welcome.  In fact we welcome to the meeting all US tea growers and wannabe tea growers, well-wishers, enthusiasts and educators – anyone with a tea farm, a backyard plot or a tea plant in a pot, or who shares our vision of Camellia tea being grown and made on North American soil.