There is nothing more special during the holidays than a business that gives back. Jason McDonald and Timmy Gipson with the Great Mississippi Tea Company in Brookhaven, Mississippi have done just that!
Located on some of the most historic land in southwest Mississippi, tea leaves never intentionally sprouted on this land before McDonald visited the Charleston Tea Plantation (changed to Charleston Tea Garden in 2020) in South Carolina. Hurricane Katrina had just swept through the area and destroyed their pine tree farm in Walthall County, and they were looking for their next break. The visit to South Carolina completely and totally changed their life. McDonald instantly recognized that the soil and climate in South Carolina were comparable to that in Mississippi. The camelia plantsneed acidic soil, good drainage, and temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees but they can survive 100-degree days too.
He returned to Mississippi with a fire in his mind that he could not extinguish until he tried growing tea himself. He and his partner Timothy ordered a few camelia bushes and sought out to make this newfound dream come true. It is important to note that Jason nor Timothy knew anything about the tea business or farming, other than pieces of information they had picked up here and there. Additionally, everyone who passed the farm wondered what in the world was going on and how were these two guys going to grow tea in Mississippi. Fortunately, it did not take them long to prove all the naysayers wrong. A few of the plants from the initial order lived and with that motivation they knew the chance had presented itself and they had to dive in headfirst. With that, the Great Mississippi Tea Company was born in 2012.
The Great Mississippi Tea Company harvests tea from April to October. When new shoots rise about the flat shrubs, they are plucked. Green tea uses the bud and the first two leaves. Most black tea uses the same, but Timothy and Jason also include the third leaf in its black tea. An oolong tea might use the bud and up to the sixth leaf. After being plucked, the tea is “withered,” or spread out so the leaves lose moisture and become pliable. Black and oolong teas are rolled, creating oxidation that darkens the leaves. Each step changes the flavors of the finished tea. Mastering that process is an art and a delicious one at that! They have won a few different awards including Best Tea Innovation in 2020, their Black Magnolia Tea won first place in the non-commercial division of the Tea of the United States Awards in 2015. They have also been recognized by Bloomberg for “Better” packaging as it pertains to being eco-friendly. They currently have approximately 40,000 tea plants on the farm.
If we have you craving a cup of hot tea while you sit on your porch, let us tell you how to get it! A trip over to the greatmsteacompany.com website will give you a chance to purchase any of their great tea, gear, honey and beeswax products, candles, soaps, cooking rubs, and even their new cookbook! Their newest product is the Bow Wow Chai, which is a good alternative to hot cocoa. Jason and Timothy made a lump donation to the Brookhaven Animal Rescue League and are committed to donating $1 per ounce of the chai that is sold. That for us is reason enough to load up on the tea for the holidays.
If you are interested in learning more about the products or their company, they welcome questions and tours! Reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook and Instagram.