When you get the idea of a farmers’ market in your head you think of local growers, producers, and craft makers coming together in a public location to offer their wares directly to their communities. But the farmers’ markets themselves are not always what they appear.
To be clear, most items sold at farmers’ markets are of excellent quality and made by people who either create their products out of passion or are looking to the venues in an effort to bring a new product to market. The latter is a lifeline to the Mom and Pop shops that are just starting out. But profit-minded groups, organizations, and even municipalities are transforming the traditional farmers’ markets into profit-driven entities in and of themselves.
Around the country, local farmers’ markets are increasingly charging the “vendors” – those who create and cart their wares to these markets – large fees to “rent space.” The more prestigious the location, the higher the fee. Then there are the locations who exclude vendors who apply in an effort to “diversify” the marketplace. The latter lends itself to favoritism and politics.
While most vendors at farmers’ markets are covered under the local Cottage Industry Laws (laws that protect the Mom and Pop shops from the crushing requirements and regulations of a licensed business), many of the markets with higher priced vendors fees also require the vendor to carry insurance, sometimes up to $1 million worth, just to participate.
Whether the issue is profiteering or favoritism, today’s farmers’ markets are not what they were even ten years ago.
So, when you do decide to get your fresh products from a local farmers’ market, please do some research into what kind of operation it is: Do they gauge their vendors? Are certain vendors being excluded? Does the venue require unreasonable levels of prerequisites that make it impossible for a small shop to participate?
This is not to say that all farmers’ markets are run for profit or notoriety. Many still honor the original concept of what a farmers’ market is supposed to be. One of those happens every other week in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Others, just like theirs – that keeps vendors’ fees to a minimum (to cover public safety and utilities) – are dotted all across the country. We should all support those efforts over those of the profiteers.
In the end, it is important to support our local merchants and small businesses. And farmers’ markets are a great way to support local small business owners and those just starting out. But let’s “nudge” the farmers’ markets back to their roots and expunge the profiteering and favoritism; the exclusion.
Doing this gives the Mom and Pop shops, the local small businesses and those just starting out a fighting chance.
When The Emerald Coast Tea Company started promoting the fact that our wild harvest yaupon tea is made from a plant indigenous to the United States, and that everything about our products is 100% made in the USA, some people quickly turned up their noses or cited that fact as a “shortcoming.”
We at The Emerald Coast Tea Company are proud that our products are 100% made in the USA. We are proud to support the American companies from which we purchase our packaging. We feel it is responsible to contribute to the local economies so that we help to fuel a healthy local economic cycle.
The idea that a tea product is “better” simply because the processed plant leaves are imported from China, Sri Lanka, India, Argentina, Japan, or any other tea exporting nation, is a dedication to short-sightedness and an willful blindness to history.
Yaupon tea was the most popular tea in the United States throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries up to the US Civil War. It was even being exported to Britain, France, and Asia. The port blockades of the US Civil War and the marketing of coffee saw yaupon’s popularity wane.
Today, The Emerald Coast Tea Company – a founding member of the American Yaupon Association – is proud to help reintroduce yaupon to the American people and all the peoples of the world. We are certain that once you try it you will wonder why we even import foreign teas.
So, “Made in the USA”? Abso-freaking-lutely! And we are damn proud of it!
There is a “hip” trend happening in the brewer and sipper world. Yerba Mate is steadily taking on the tea scene. This South American rainforest holly tree produces a leaf that has been brewed to tea for centuries; a healthy caffeine alternative to coffee. But while yerba mate is getting all the attention, it’s cousin, yaupon – indigenous to the United States, is virtually ignored.
Yaupon has thrived in the Southeastern United States for centuries. Native Americans from what is now Texas to Florida, Lousiana to Virginia, brewed “the black drink” for use in pre-battle ceremonies to give them energy, and rightly so. Yaupon is the only indigenous plant out of the 20,000-plus species native to North America to have a significant amount of naturally occurring caffeine.
Yaupon is so prevalent that in many Southern states – Florida being one – it is considered a weed plant and destroyed as a nuisance. In other parts of the South, it is crafted ornamentally in landscaping.
Nutritionally, yaupon is almost identical to yerba mate. Both hold 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant antioxidants, as well as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine. The latter are popular “pick-me-ups” also found in tea, coffee, and chocolate. In fact, some say a cup of yaupon tea combines the stimulant strength of coffee, the nutritional benefits of tea and the “euphoria factor” of chocolate.
Unlike traditional teas – all of which are imported into the United States from China, Sri Lanka, India, Argentina and beyond, yaupon has a very low tannin content so it drinks strong like coffee but without the bitterness. And unlike coffee, yaupon isn’t oily so it isn’t prone to acid forming. This facet of the leaf makes it much less likely to cause stomach acid and caffeine “jitters.”
Given its wild presence in the American Southeast, one would imagine that yaupon would be exploding into the coffee shops, tea rooms, and marketplaces across the United States. Given the move toward natural foods and herbal teas, one would think that yaupon would be a staple in houses that respect holistic, herbal and all-natural products. Additionally, in an economic climate where jobs need to be created, one would almost bet that this industry – what with “free” raw material – would be exploding into the marketplace. But it's not.
Yaupon, it appears, has been forgotten. While the South American yerba mate has become popular with the in-crowd of the brew-and-sipper sphere, yaupon has been stunningly ignored. This is troubling because, in the area where yerba mate is produced and harvested, the rainforest is under siege. Where the harvesting of the Ilex paraguariensis (the Latin name for the yerba mate plant) necessarily needs to be certified as not having damaged the rainforest, harvesting yaupon is not a threat to the environment and comes from right here in the United States.
Ironically, back in the beginning of the 19th Century, yaupon tea was so popular in the American Southeast that it was not only a staple in every Southern household, but smart business people were starting to export the product to the tea capitols in Britain, France and even as far away as Asia. This industry was sidelined in the mid-1800s by the US Civil War and, to date, has never recovered.
So how do we right the wrong that has been done to the spectacular plant that is the yaupon holly plant? How do we restore yaupon’s nobility in the tea world and amongst the brew-and-sipper community? While the answer is simple it will take some outside the box thinking and just a wee bit of unselfish effort. We have to try it and talk about it.
I suggest trying yaupon tea that is wild harvested and all-natural. Once you taste the different ways it can be roasted and refined – and once you understand the nutritional benefits of yaupon tea and realize you can have all of that and a caffeine source – I guarantee you will understand why this forgotten plant should be restored to its rightful place on top of the tea market!
We recently discovered that our Black Water River Roast Yaupon Tea – both with and without chicory, makes the perfect, and we mean perfect Southern Sweet Tea. And it’s not just us saying so!
At farmers’ market after farmers’ market and festival after festival, people are raving about how perfect the Emerald Coast Tea Company’s Black Water River Roast teas are for making authentic Southern Sweet Tea! In fact, it works so well we consistently run out of the product.
This makes sense for several reasons.
First, Yaupon is the only indigenous tea plant to the United States. It is found predominantly in the Southeast, the home of authentic Southern Sweet Tea. All the store bought teas use tea leaves from China, Sri Lanka, Argentina, and India, to name just a few places. Only yaupon tea leaves can be called truly American – and truly Southern.
We also found that adding chicory – a Southern staple now discovered to have a wellspring of health benefits for those who consume it – cuts the light tannin finish of yaupon tea (a finish with far less tannin than any other tea). With the removal of the tannin finish the natural unsweetened yaupon tea taste give an illusion of sweet, perfect for “Northerners” (and we say that with affection) and diabetics who seek something refreshing without sugar or chemical additives.
So, why not try the only tea that can be called “authentic” when it comes to Southern Sweet Tea? Grown, harvested, roasted, and made in America, the Emerald Coast Tea Company’s Black Water River Roast Yaupon Teas (regular and with chicory) will not only please your palate but quench your thirst!
Long before the modern day TEA Party movement - and not too long after the Boston Tea Party, tea parties played a significant role in one of the most important moments in American history: The women's suffrage movement.
A short but informative article at BostonTeaPartyShip.com tells of just how tea parties helped American women to network, organize and eventually affect the passage of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution:
"On July 9, 1848, five key members of the American women’s suffrage movement met for tea in Waterloo, New York: Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and hostess Jane Hunt. Over tea, these women expressed their views so passionately that while their meeting had probably started as a calm affair, it quickly became the launch pad for nothing less than the Seneca Falls Convention; this convention was the first women’s rights conference in the Western world, and it had started with a simple tea party."
There is much more information in this short article, but it goes to show that unless we pay attention to history it tends to fade away.
Something to ponder over, say, a nice tea grown, processed and sold right here in the good old USA!