David Barron is growing tea on his 160-acre Louisiana pine treefarm. He started by clearing three acres to begin growing what soon wouldexpand into a wider project. Barron is building Fleur De Lis Tea Company as atea destination, a place where visitors can see how tea is grown and processed.
They can sample and purchase his products. And, at the sametime, they can relax and stay awhile.
“I have a small lodge and log cabin on the property now.It’s a guest house,” Barron says. “I invite people to come and stay andexperience the property.”
There’s a 1.5-acre lake stocked with fish. Horseback ridingis an option. So are long walks along forest trails. Soon, tea will beavailable as well.
“Now we’re trying to incorporate the beauty of the propertywith the tea experience,” he says. “With the trails, tourism is an option.”
The farm, located about 90 minutes north of New Orleans, is positioned in what Barron, 68, describes as the “picturesque” part of the state. He originally bought the land as an investment as well as for personal use, as a place he and his family could enjoy. The farm has a stand of 95,000 southern yellow pine trees harvested for timber.
“To me, it started as a hobby, a pastime but I really seethe potential for it to be much more,” he said. “Once I started clearing it, Iwas introduced to different kinds of plants and shrubs. I started enhancing theproperty. That’s how the tea evolved.”
Barron’s tea evolutionstarted in 2017 when he learned of a Louisiana State University project lookingfor someone with suitable land and an interest in growing tea. Universityexperts determined the pine tree farm fit their need.
Plants were transferred tothe farm and now “I have 1,000 three-year-old tea plants in the ground,” he said.“I have another 1,500 plants in the nursery and 1,000 in the greenhouse.”
The greenhouse plants willbe planted in the tea garden this month.
Positive tests indicate tea quality at Fleur Di Lis will begood, Barron said. Pine needles and bark from nearby trees make the soil veryacidic. “And that’s ideal for growing tea. I was really surprised how well ithas been accepted.”
As the plants grow, so do the facilities to process andsell the product.
“We’re building a tea house, our processing building and a storefront(tasting room),” he said. “We are scheduled to host the US League of Tea Growersmeeting in October  and we have to be up and running prior to that. Bythe end of next year, we’ll be at full production.”
Barron’s long-term goal is to sell Fleur De Lis tea at retailstores, online and on the farm. “We expect our strongest sales to be at theproduction facility where people can enjoy the full experience,” he said,noting it is too early to make sales projections.
“We feel like (thevisitor experience) will be one of our main focuses due to the natural beautyof our location on 160 acres of pine forest with creeks and trails,” Barron said.“We also are looking forward to having the opportunity to educate thepublic on the process of the tea farm and raising awareness for the potentialof the tea industry in the United States.”
Source: FleurDe Lis tea