Last Saturday I was hurting. A mammoth storm had struck mid-Michigan and my cluster headache/nausea/fried senses were nearly incapacitating me. I had to escape. Thanks to my migraine, a long-lost meaningless memory floated unbidden to the surface (a bizarre occurrence known as hypnagogic regression that I get occasionally with bad migraines): doing shots with my sister-in-law in a Traverse City casino. I wasn’t exactly compelled to do so again, but the idea of Traverse City reminded me of a piece of word of mouth I’d heard recently about an organic tea farm in Traverse City. I searched weather sites and atmospheric pressure maps and discovered amazingly that Northern Lower Michigan was untouched by this brain-sucking storm. Sure, Traverse City is quite the drive from Ann Arbor but I was pretty desperate.
Driving North on my latest mis-adventure, I wasn’t actually past the storm front until I hit Mt. Pleasant. From there it was like a completely different day: the dark overcast skies opened up and it was sunny and cool. What i didn’t yet realize was the parallels to The Wizard of OZ would only continue. I had another two and a hours of driving through such exotic climes as the light-bereft Manistee National Forest and the roller coaster-like hills of the Leelanau. Eventually i arrived somewhere that quite literally had been beyond my imagination…
The place I’d been told to check out by a random person I met at Unity Vibration‘s tasting room turned out to be directly up my alley. Light of Day Organics is an operation the likes of which I’d not imagined I’d find in my home country (except maybe in Hawaii). A fully-operational tea farm, producing several varieties of all the popular styles, as well as some more obscure types. Light of Day Organics has Blacks, Greens, Whites, Oolongs, a Pu-erh (o.0;;), tisanes, as well as their own super-pure matcha. On top of all this incredible, Michigan-grown organic tea, it turns out the founder gives tours and classes. I figuratively fell down on all fours with a slack-jaw. Here was an opportunity to learn about tea cultivation first-hand, without the need to travel abroad to the Sub-Continent or the Orient. Suffice it to say, I will be reviewing Light of Day Organics teas very soon, beginning with the one that just kind of blows my mind, Present-time Pu-erh. Unfortunately, Light of Day Organics teas tip the scale nearly to unaffordable, but given the scale of their operation (growing well-over 100 styles on their farm, the costs of certifying them organic, paying for imported Fair Trade additives and the manufacture, packaging, etc.) and the fact that it’s conveniently located just outside a resort town, the costs seem understandable. Unfortunately, I had promised myself I wouldn’t smash my piggy bank all on one vendor so I only ended up bringing home a handful of their teas on this trip. I definitely intend to make another trip out to Light of Day Organics on a weekday when I might be able to interview the owner and go on a tour of the facility. Honestly, I didn’t think I’d be able to tour a tea farm for another ten years or more, so it represents a mind blowing opportunity for me.
Additionally, I managed to drive my feet off and had to turn this excursion into a two day venture, traveling back by way of Detroit so I could stop into two of my favorite vendors: Eli and Goldfish. I’m certain that I could stretch my budget and purchase a great deal more teas from more sources if i simply bought everything online… but then, where would the anecdotal insights i takeaway from conversing with shop owners and vendors come from, nevermind the lack of word of mouth i needed in order to learn about Light of Day Organics?