If we told you there are 55,000 tea plants growing across from the Waterloo Outlet mall, you might think we’re kidding, but it’s true!
“We only know of two other tea farms in the country,” Mark Lin says with a smile. “One in Hawaii and one in South Carolina.”
Mark and his wife Lily are proud to be the first (and only) tea growers in the Finger Lakes. The Lin family worked with Cornell University for several years perfecting their growing practices. “The unique climate of the Finger Lakes is actually quite conducive to growing tea,” Mark says.
Although Finger Lakes Tea Company is two years away from its first harvest, the Lins are currently importing teas from the Huangshan area of China, where Mark owns farmland and oversees the tea harvest. All imported teas and locally-planted teas are organically grown.
It’s quite an undertaking for Mark and Lily Lin, but fortunately they have help. Ken Perry is the General Manager at Finger Lakes Tea Company. For four years, he’s been working with the Lin family providing assistance in translation and business development. “I’ve adopted his family as my own,” Ken says proudly.
In addition to the 55,000 tea plants on their 30 acre property, the Lins have a crop of 1,400 apple pear trees. “They are super sweet, and have a nice crunch,” Ken says. Apple pear trees are another crop that thrives in warmer climates, but the Lins are finding tremendous success with it in Upstate New York.
Mark and Lily aren’t newcomers to the Finger Lakes area. The Lins ran the popular Happy Family Chinese Restaurant in Seneca Falls for four years, all the while preparing for their tea farm, which celebrated its grand opening March 7 this year.
Growing tea in the Finger Lakes. Our curiosity is certainly piqued! We’ll be sure to keep you posted here on the blog!