Tea plants grown, harvested and packaged for loose leaf tea in northern Michigan may seem like an impossibility, but Angela Macke, owner and operator of Light of Day Organic Teas, is making it happen. Currently all the white tea sold at her retail shop and working farm in Traverse City is produced on-site, as well as fifty-seven percent of the ingredients used in blending all of the teas.
How is all of this accomplished in a zone 4 growing climate when tea plants flourish in tropical zone 9? Macke would tell you it comes from a lot of love and a spectacular green house constructed with layers of plastic. Each protective sheet adds another growing zone to the equation and it keeps it so warm, Macke says, “I can be here [the greenhouse] in shorts and a tee-shirt and there’s snow piled up outside”.
Greeted this past weekend at the front of her store, Macke invited us on a tour of the greenhouse and farm before starting her tasting class that emphasizes the health benefits of the tea. A nurse and certified tea specialist, Macke is passionate about all the attributes of tea and providing a product that is organic and fair trade. “I am going next week to meet personally with all those who grow the rest of the tea I sell here.” She does this to see how they are doing, what they are doing and to continue to foster the personal relationships.
Tea plants grow in tidy rows in the Light of Day greenhouse in varying stages of maturity. Macke can easily demonstrate how the environment influences not just the tips of the leaves, but impacts the whole plant down to its lengthy roots. This, she cautions, is why pollutants and radiation can have a lasting effect on the ultimate product of the tea plant, the tea. And, that is why she takes such care in controlling her own growing environment. Light of Day is Michigan's only certified Demeter Biodynamic farm.
Growing tea plants in northern Michigan is not only possible, it thrives in an organic environment without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers, but with much care and, perhaps most importantly, a whole lot of love.
Visitors can sample teas at the new tea bar in the Light of Day shop and purchase loose leaf in small or large tins. Light of Day also hosts classes including "Tea Wellness" and "Tea 101". The store is open daily from noon until 5:00, June through October and 10 to 6:00 Friday and Saturday, November through May. For more information, call 231.228.7234 or visit their website at Light of Day Organic Teas.