• US Tea Growers Competition – Need to Know

    Competition announced for US grown tea… American Tea Room hires Tony Gebely to run its online operations…

    National Competition for US Tea Growers

    Tea farmers in the United States are eligible to enter the first competition designed to showcase US grown teas. A cash price of $1000 will go the top grower in each of four tea categories, juried by an international panel of judges.

    Eva Lee, a Hawaii tea farmer and TOTUS awards director, with the Volcano Art Center hosting judging Nov. 4 in Hawaii, thanks to a grant from the Hawaii County Office of Research & Development, cash awards provided by the Hawaii Tea Society, and several contributing agricultural organizations involved in developing the cultivation of tea. The competition will be followed by an exhibition and presentation Nov. 7 at the Volcano Art Center in Hawaii.4.VAC Color Logo where people,art,nature meet LARGE

    “I recently returned from Washington DC after talking with representatives on Capitol Hill on the significant development of US grown tea in agriculture and its unique place in family farming,” said Lee, a former head of the Hawaii Tea Society. “The more informed our representatives are on domestic tea production the better assistance they can provide at the county, state and federal level. The TOTUS Awards will raise public awareness and create opportunities for many in tea production nationwide,” she said.

    The deadline to enter opens Aug. 1, 2015. Entry forms with payment are due Oct. 16. The last day tea entries will be accepted at the Volcano Art Center is Oct. 26. Teas must be 100% grown in the US with no foreign tea blends, scents or herbals added. Categories include white tea, green tea, oolong tea and black tea. The competition is open to both commercial and non-commercial growers. Commercial growers pay $100 per entry. Non-commercial growers pay $40 per entry. Non-commercial growers are those that produce and sell less than 5 pounds of Camellia sinensis per year. Hobbyists and researchers are also invited to submit 36-gram entries. There is a maximum of three entries per tea type.

    LOGO-Hawaii Tea Society“Now that spring harvests have ended and with summer and autumn yields ahead, competitors should take this time to review, experiment and refine tea entries to demonstrate excellence of your skills,” said Lee.

    Sponsorships, beginning at $100, are welcome to help underwrite competition expenses, she added.

    To learn more visit: www.TOTUS1awards.com

    Tony Gebely Joins American Tea Room

    Award-winning tea blogger Tony Gebely was named American Tea Room’s director of technology and distribution channels. He starts Aug. 1.  Gebely, a two-time World Tea Award winner for his blog World of Tea (www.WorldofTea.org), has 10 years of experience in digital marketing strategy and business intelligence. He has worked 12 years in the specialty beverage industry and is the founder of Chicago Tea Garden.  He will be responsible for all of American Tea Room’s online presence, including management of the website and social media channels, as well as tea education and hospitality outreach.

    Tony Gebely
    Tony Gebely

    American Tea Room will soon open its second location, a 5,600 sq. ft. space in Los Angeles’ Arts District. The shop features a new open tasting arena and oasis garden tea lounge.

    The shop, at 909 S. Santa Fe Avenue, will also house corporate offices for the online business which has grown more than 30% year-over-year since launching in 2006. Once the new spot opens, the company plans to remodel its Beverly Hills location into a contemporary, open concept that will accommodate more customers with indoor and outdoor seating, a more comprehensive food menu, and an expanded retail space. This renovation is expected to be completed by late winter 2016. CEO David Barenholtz plans a third location at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Construction will begin at that location next week he said.

    Learn more at: www.AmericanTeaRoom.com

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    Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs good decision-making in business. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.

    Tea Biz posts are available to use in your company newsletter or website. Purchase reprint and distribution rights for single articles or commission original content.  Click here for details.

  • The U.S. League of Tea Growers – Need to Know

    The U.S. League of Tea Growers is growing… Tea in uncharted territory… a new book on culinary tea…

    LOGO-USLTGThe U.S. League of Tea Growers

    The League is hosting their annual meeting this week beginning today at the Great Mississippi Tea Company in Brookhaven, Miss. Membership has grown and the organization is electing new officers. The harvest is tiny but owners now plant tea commercially in a dozen states. They may lack volume but these are some of the most technologically advanced growers in the world. The three-day conference includes lectures from university and agricultural extension experts, USDA staff and tea garden tours. Tea-Biz will provide a complete report following the event. Growers next meet at the World Tea Expo, May 6-8, 2015 in Long Beach, Calif. Learn more at: USLTG

    Uncharted Tea Territory

    Adhiraj “Raj” Vable, founder of Young Mountain Tea, has turned to Kickstarter for support. His first selection is a white tea harvested in the Himalayas on land distant from the traditional high-grown gardens surrounding Darjeeling. The garden is near Beri Nag, India, grown on small plots in the Kumaon region that is still largely unchartered for tea.

    Kumoan Region, India
    Kumaon Region, Northern India

    “We chose to create a new white peony, also known as a Bai Mudan, for two reasons. First, because it’s an incredible tea. One of the world’s most popular white teas, white peony is refreshing, light, and carries a sweetness reminiscent of honeydew melon,” said Vable. The tea is lightly processed, essentially sun dried which reflects the Chinese Bai Mudan style.

    “In June 2013, we harvested leaves from tea plants growing wild in Kumaon and processed it as a white peony. We were stunned by what we had, so we moved forward and planted our first acre. And now here we are, a few months away from sharing this gift of the mountains with you!” said Vable.

    YMT - Fields
    Tea workers harvest the rugged Kumaon terraces

    This is an organic permaculture garden. The handmade tea is cultivated with sustainable intercropping practices in the foothills of the Himalayas near the border with Nepal. The region was first planted in tea in the 1820s but the British found it too difficult to transport given the terrain, absence of rail service and unreliable roads. Vable is getting good advice from experienced growers including Indi Khanna, the Nilgiri producer of bouTEAque teas.

    Vable has been planning this venture for several years.

    “We named our company after the rising Himalayas, a mountain range that is still going up as the Indian subcontinent slams into Asia,” he said

    Young Mountain Tea
    Young Mountain Tea

    He is young, energetic and committed to assisting the Kumaon people who will find work that will help the next generation find reasons to remain in this rugged territory. He discovered the area as a graduate student at the University of Oregon while working with the non-profit group Avani.

    In 2013 he returned on a Fulbright Fellowship and negotiated with the Avani to purchase tea grown locally. Young Mountain is seeking $24,000 to fund the first phase of his ambitious plans. The project is nearing $15,000 with 120 backers and a month to go.

    To learn more visit www.youngmountaintea.com or Young Mountain’s Kickstarter page.

    Tea from Cup to Plate

    Raelene Gannon is a tea sommelier, chef and now author of Tea from Cup to Plate, a guide to steeping and cooking with tea. The proprietor of Tea and All its Splendour, an online tea retail site and wholesaler, Gannon developed the recipes during two years of in-the-kitchen experiments drawing on her love of tea and food. Gannon is a certified tea sommelier in Canada, teaches cooking classes in and around Bradford, Ont., and has a great command of the delights of culinary tea (you should taste her delicious tea in chocolate).

    Raelene Gannon
    Raelene Gannon

    Reviewer John Higgins, corporate chef, George Brown Chef School and judge on the Food Network’s Chopped Canada, attests to Raelene’s passion for tea “and with her tea recipes and fabulous tips on how to use tea in cooking, this book is a winner.”

    The illustrated text, priced at $29.95, is available now in print or downloadable ebook ($9.95) editions.  Click to order.

    Learn more at: www.teaandallitssplendour.com

    ? ? ?

    Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs good decision-making in business. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.

    Tea Biz posts are available to use in your company newsletter or website. Purchase reprint and distribution rights for single articles or commission original content.  Click here for details.

  • Helicopter Rescue

    Perched in a tree jutting from a cliff hundreds of feet above fast-moving Mountain Home Creek I would have welcomed a calming cup of tea.

    SAN GORGONIO WILDERNESS, Calif. – A few miles from Angeles Oaks Calif., there is a trailhead on Hwy. 38 leading to Mountain Home Flats, an early settler’s homestead located in the San Gorgonio Wilderness of San Bernardino County.

    Chopper Rescue
    Click to see video of rescue.

    San Bernardino Mountain rises 10,649 ft., high above the flats which are about 7,800 ft. up the north side of the mountain. Below is the East Fork of Mountain Home Creek. There is a waterfall a short distance from the fire circle and spectacular vistas. On a clear day from the peak looking East you can see the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains and from the West face the azure Pacific.

    Calling this area “flat” is a misstatement. The difficult vertical climb rises more than 4,600 ft. in a distance of 16.5 miles from the village of Angeles Oaks. The 60-mile range, formed 11 million years ago by the San Andreas Fault, boasts the highest mountain in Southern California (San Gorgonio Mountain at 11,499 ft.).

    My companions Sarah Baisley and Chris Harz and their two big white German shepherds, joined me on the hike, returning to a trail we had last walked a dozen years ago.

    Adventures have happy endings  – mishaps, not so much. In this tale my survival was 5 parts luck and 10 parts scouting and firefighting experience. I’m happy I could write the ending.

    We set out early May 26, arriving at the trailhead before noon. The hike to our base camp was much more difficult than in past years due to fallen timber. Giant Coulter, Jeffery and Ponderosa Pines dominate this region. These gray-green trees grow to 80 feet tall. Some blocking the trail were four foot in diameter. The pine cone of the Coulter weighs as much as 12 pounds and measure 18 inches. Foresters call them “widowmakers.”

    Manzanita lined canyons are spectacular but steep.

    The temperature was in the 80s. I had last hiked the trail in 2002 and not many had walked it since. At one point I led the group up a steep incline only to retreat. My friend Patrick Graham and his son were ahead of us, returning from their early-morning trail blazing efforts. They saw us and put us on the right path.

    Graham said the trail ahead was “bad, very bad.”

    As early evening approached we set up a base camp on a ridge opposite Mountain Home Flats high above the creek. Everyone was thirsty, including the dogs, so I set out with Sarah for water. Ahead was a narrow ledge and a stretch of along the face of the cliff that my daughter Tessa calls the “goat trail above the abyss.”

    The trail from the ridge was in bad repair. I decided to rig safety line. It took an hour to secure the line, inching along the rock face as scree tumbled below. It was another hour to descend to Mountain Home Creek. California was undergoing its worst drought in a century but there was good flow in the creek. I used the Katadyn filter to insure the water was safe. Eight canteens and water bottles later, when I started back from the creek it was nearly dark. At the foot of the ridge stumbled. While I knew the trail quite well, the climb had been much more tiring than I remember. My headlamp cast uncertain light and I began to slip and fall every 10 yards, cutting and scraping my calves until they bled.

    It was then I realized I would have to spend an uncomfortable night under a tree. Carrying a pack of water in the dark along the face of a cliff seemed too risky. I bed down on pine boughs near a big log.

    Deciding to spend a 60-degree night under the stars saved my life.

    I did not know it at the time, but Sarah had already fallen down the scree while returning to base camp. See too was forced to spend the night hugging a Manzanita bush, exposed to the night air.

    Lifted to safety
    AR 306, a Bell UH-1H, lifts Dan upside down from the cliff.

    At dawn as soon as I could see the trail I set out. I was returning with gallons of water in my pack, facing the cliff, inching my way along when suddenly the narrow ledge gave way. I had looped the safety line around my right hand as I progressed and now found myself suspended about 20 feet below the ledge by that hand… boy did that hurt…. my fingers quickly turned purple under my 350 pound weight but I was able to hang there long enough to kick into the crumbling rock with my left boot. In time I had a rock climbers three-point hand and foot hold.

    I let go of the line. My right hand was swollen, numb and useless. I steadied myself with my left and crab walked across the face of the cliff. I was 60 feet below the ledge. I could not see how far it was to the sloping scree and safety far to my left. I knew it would be a long stretch of sheer, near vertical rock to cross. I started out, kicking toe holds with my steel-toe boots as I made my way.

    Progress was slow. I had moved about 20 feet across the face of the rock when I noticed a dark shadow to my left. It was from a tree anchored below me. I was tiring. I looked down. The 400 fall would send me into the sharp sloping rocks. Without a climbing helmet I would then likely tumble unconscious into the fast-moving creek below.

    You can imagine how happy I was to see that shadow led to a a wiry little tree. It was a broad leaf with smooth bark and a trunk diameter between six and eight inches. I maneuvered above it, slid face first slowly down the rock and straddled it between my legs with my back to the cliff. I rested a while, wrapped my hand and took stock of the situation. Secure from a fall I started with an inventory. My glasses and hearing aids were still in place. In my fanny pack I had a radio and water, a flashlight and a Leatherman tool, a bandanna, compass and hat. My walking stick had fallen within arm’s reach.

    Chris Harz awoke that morning counting on me to help pull Sarah out of her predicament.

    Earlier I had waved and greeted him at a distance before setting off along the ledge and he acknowledged with a shout. Now I was doing the shouting, explaining that I had fallen and needed a chopper.

    Chris had tried the cell phones but without service he knew he would have to walk down the mountain to ring 911. He had one AT&T and one phone on the Verizon network. He got a Verizon signal around 9:30 a.m. I had fallen around 6:30 a.m. Sarah had slipped in the scree about 8 p.m. the previous night and could not regain her footing, landing in a Manzanita but safe.

    “Even if one of you had gotten to me with a rope, I was too weak from straining to stay awake and lodged in that spot all night without water. I no longer had the muscle energy,” she said later.

    Sarah Baisley and Dan Bolton return to base camp.
    Sarah Baisley and Dan Bolton return to base camp.

    The rescue chopper, based in Apple Valley, Calif., responded immediately to the call. A sheriff’s deputy met Chris at the trailhead and he rode with them to the fire station where he pointed to our location on the map. In these circumstances San Bernardino County Sheriff’s dispatch two choppers, the first to identify the victim’s location and a second, heavier ship, to perform the air rescue. Deputy Doug Brimmer piloted the craft. He and Flight Officer Deputy Ryan Peppler were first to arrive in 40King6, a 2006 Eurocopter that scanned the canyon for almost an hour flying occasionally overhead.

    They could not locate us easily in the brush, making many passes along the canyon in full view but too distant to signal. The pilot then asked via bull horn for us to wave something white. Sarah cleverly and enthusiastically waved her bra. I tied my bandanna to the walking stick and waved.

    Once we were spotted, Deputy Brimmer radioed for Air Rescue 306, a Bell UH-1H chopper piloted by Deputy Dave Borgerd with Crew Chief Deputy John Scalise. On board were Fire Captain S. Simpson and Firefighter/Paramedic Eric Sherwin.

    Sherwin was lowered and quickly extracted Sarah.

    After they had carried Sarah to safety Sherwin walked to the spot above the tree when I sat and lowered a harness using the ropes I had rigged. I then scaled the distance I had fallen unassisted, finding a footing on the ridge.

    Once I reached the ledge Sherwin brought the chopper in close and buckled the lifting hook into my waist harness. I was safely attached to the chopper and he was attempting to fasten a chest harness when the chopper suddenly rose a few feet, pulling me out of his reach and leaving me to ascend head down. I remember focusing on my boots as they hoisted me feet first. At first the rotors seemed a long way from those boots. The winch is mounted in the roof of the chopper and I recall thinking that suddenly those rotors were very, very close to my boots. They bent me in half and pulled me in feet first. The trip to Angeles Oaks took only a few minutes.

    A KABC TV 7 reporter interviewed me on landing, the medics gave me a once over. I presented the containers of water to Sarah and got a big hug. The newspaper where I worked in the 1990s, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, ran a brief written by a reporter and friend of mine who coincidentally attended my 60th birthday party the previous Saturday. He didn’t know it was me.

    It was about 5.5 hours after I fell before I landed.

    Dan Describing Fall_640px
    Dan describes the fall.

    We rested at the Oaks Restaurant across from the fire station. The accompanying photo is me explaining the fall. As we walked into the restaurant the waitress said, “aren’t you the guy on TV we just watched them haul into the helicopter?”

    “Yup. Burger and MGD please,” I replied.

    That would have been the end of it except that all of our gear and my wallet, ID and passport were still on the mountain. One backpack had meat for dinner in bear country so we decided to climb right back up the mountain, spent an exhausted night and then climbed back down the next morning.

    The second group of photos show Chris, Sarah and I celebrating the return to base camp with a box of wine.

    Chris Harz - Dan Bolton_640px
    Base camp with Chris Harz.

    The campsite was a favorite of my now-grown children. I had ascended the mountain to bury a time capsule with items for my grandchildren (my first grandchild, Lux Alexander, was born to my son Patrick on Saturday, May 24, a couple of days before the hike).

    The stainless thermos time capsule contains a computer SD chip with 592 ancestors in the family tree; a few trinkets prized by my two sons and daughter along with coins from 19 countries. A note encourages “the grandchildren whom I know and those I have yet to meet” to pick a coin and travel there as “adventure has so enriched my life.”

    All is well… I live to write another tale. The TV reporter asked my advice for others: “Be Prepared” I said, recalling the Scout motto that served me well. The water filter and radio, the bandanna, the compass and knife all contributed to my return. Taking the time to rig that safety line made all the difference.

    Hanging up there for several hours with a spectacular view I realized that if it turned out badly it would be a sad, but fitting end.

    Propped against the cliff, hand throbbing, bloody legs straddling that tough little tree I sipped the cool mountain water that I had gathered, second-guessed some of my decisions and wondered when they would find me; why they didn’t answer my radio distress calls; how long the tree would continue to hold. I sat there examining one by one, the many facets of fear… calmly and without regret.

    LOGO-SanBernardinoAirRescueDan is an Eagle Scout and former firefighter credited with saving the lives of others. He is very grateful to the San Bernardino sheriff’s deputies piloting the aircraft and the firefighters on board who saved his life.

  • Brewing in Vegas


    LAS VEGAS, Nev.

    Late at night in a Las Vegas hotel room at the height of World Tea Expo, the essence of tea is evident.

    This gathering includes some of the most refined pallets in the world, explorers and passionate tea drinkers whose books, retail operations and opinions shape the American and Canadian consumer experience.

    The mood is joyful. The room littered with tea-making apparatus, kilo sacks of green tea fresh from China with gaiwans on gongfu trays and kettles at the boil. Everyone has brought a favorite. Something new and exciting, exotic and exquisite. The teas vary widely and are expertly served in tiny porcelain cups. Slurping is expected followed by extemporaneous outbursts of beautiful prose describing every nuance from color and aroma to the lingering aftertaste. This real-time narration is honed by decades of traveling to every tea land on the globe, acquiring piles and piles of dried leaves for others to enjoy.

    At most conventions corporate policy and competitive pressures would deny this pleasure.

    Consider how unlikely it would be to find top-level automobile executives, aerospace engineers, oil men or Hollywood directors crowded together on the bed, sharing chairs and leaning against the dresser at 12 minutes after midnight extolling the  best work of their fiercest competitors, openly revealing their sources of inspiration and supply.

    Transparency in business does not come naturally. It is cultivated by enlightened executives whose success more closely mirrors the Tao than the Dow.

    Tonight’s glimpse into the world of specialty tea is not unique. I experienced similar gatherings late nights in Dubai and Kolkata, in the high mountains of Darjeeling and the jungles of Assam.

    Tea benefits from a global culture of sharing influenced since antiquity by the view that it is the greatest of gifts. Tonight our host sets the example as the most generous and transparent of all.

  • The Emerging US League of Tea Growers

    TWEET: Can you imagine a time when the United States could become a major source of premium specialty tea?

    Ask most tea drinkers about their primary sources of tea and you are likely to hear mentions of China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and other Asian and African destinations. Could you imagine a time when the United States was named as readily as these? There is a group of tea growers, researchers, and enthusiasts who are trying to make that a reality.

    Jason McDonald of FiLoLi Farms in Brookhaven, Miss. and Nigel Melican, CEO of Teacraft Ltd., have recently announced the creation of the U.S. League of Tea Growers. They are working with farms in thirteen states that are already growing tea. “Only by linking the disparate growers from Hawaii to Mississippi, from Oregon to Florida, can we achieve the critical mass to forge the new methods upon which real commercial success will depend,” says Melican. The states where tea is currently grown include Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington state. A new farm is organizing in Waterloo, New York as well.

    The first meeting of the League is slated to occur during the 2013 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. In the meantime, they are organizing around 18 goals which include:

    Raising the visibility of tea growers in the States,
    Encouraging growth and production of premium specialty teas,
    Amassing a library of information relevant to growing in this country,
    Providing technical support to other growers who are considering tea as a viable crop, and
    Engaging in extensive research to support the industry.
    The underlying assumption is that the individual farmers will be encouraged to develop their tea growing programs independently, in a way that supports their personal goals, but with access to strong science, research, and technical support.

    While there are many facets to their approach, one critical component is a scientific evaluation of the varieties and cultivars that have the greatest potential to be successful given this country’s climate. Mississippi State University has begun a process of collecting and analyzing a wide variety of tea plants.

    But why American grown tea? Organizers of the US League believe that there would be substantial interest in tea that is grown with fewer pesticides, less risk of heavy metal contamination, more controls on labor practices, and a shorter shipping distance, but also with specific attention to American palates.

    Melican is enthusiastic about the potential for this group. “There are more people interested in growing tea in the U.S. than ever before. To be successful in a high cost economy, tea growing has to be different here — high tech and automated, backed with R&D and American ingenuity. Niche production and boutique marketing of desirable and unusual specialty teas has to be the goal.”

    Katrina Ávila Munichiello

    ©Mystic Media 2013

    LinkedIn: What do you see as the largest challenges in creating a commercially viable American tea growing industry?