Introducing The Great Mississippi Tea Company

Take your tongue on a trip down the Mighty Mississippi to the tiny town of Brookhaven. There, amongst old cattle-grazing lands, Timmy Gipson and the folks at the Great Mississippi Tea Company are leading the way in American artisan tea. They’re working hard to move away from the old plantation model and grow tea in a way that is both environmentally and financially sustainable. Jackson Konwinski, our Deli Tea Buyer, says, “Who thought some dried leaves could have such a huge effect?” Thanks to Jackson, our tea selection at the Deli is ever growing and now includes these American grown teas.


A New Business Takes Root

Great Mississippi Tea Company (GMTC) began with a question: “Why don’t the States have more home-grown tea?” 

After Hurricane Katrina destroyed Jason McDonald and Timmy Gipson’s tree plantation in 2005, they were looking to pivot their business plans. Inspiration struck on a vacation to a tea plantation in South Carolina, where they learned that tea was a largely untapped industry throughout the United States, as most of the teas we consume come from overseas. With the plant’s sturdiness in harsh weather and resistance to bugs or wildlife, Jason and Timmy decided to take the plunge. What started as an experiment with six tea plants grown at home — three of which survived — became an incredible full-scale operation! The land in Brookhaven, Mississippi that these tea plants call home has nutrient-rich soil that’s excellent for growing plants, and has been in the family for generations. They even used to raise cattle on it!

Even with these near-perfect conditions for tea production, it was something of a learning curve; in 2011 they planted 30,000 tea plants and ended up losing most of them as they gained their footing in this new field. A mere 1,000 of these plants would kick off their business. Today, that number has multiplied by 40!

GMTC uses a combination of traditional hand-picking and hand-shaping techniques alongside sophisticated machinery to aid the production of tea, leading to a smaller team which allows for fair wages while still delivering an exceptional product that they are truly proud of. GMTC says, “The Great Mississippi Tea Company wants to deliver more than just an outstanding cup of tea. We are striving to change what once was an ancient industry, to modernize it with innovation and bring it much closer to home.” It’s no wonder their teas have won multiple awards! GMTC can be found on 13 different retailer shelves across the country, with 12 varieties to choose from! At the Deli, we carry their Mississippi Queen and their Black Magnolia. Jackson says, “Guests and staff love our teas from Mississippi so much we can’t imagine life without them!”


Mississippi Queen Tea

Mississippi Queen, one of the incredible green teas produced at GMTC, is another example of their innovative approach to tea production. This hybrid of styles starts with hand-picked leaves and buds that are steamed (much like a Japanese Sencha), but then gently shaped like a classic Chinese green that’s normally pan-fired. What results is the best of both worlds. The nose is packed with fresh herbs, grass, and seaweed. You’ll get a lot of the same notes on your palate. But the finish. Oh, the finish! It’s like buttered sweet corn. It’s pretty much a hot, July day in a cup.

Black Magnolia Tea

Truth be told, this tea won us over on taste alone. It’s almost a hybrid of a classic Chinese black tea and rock oolong, but exists squarely in its own space. Notes of stone fruits and sweet potatoes take center stage with molasses and malted grain, surrounded by a choir of evening flowers with a honeyed finish that seems to go on forever. You’d almost think someone slipped some sugar into your cup when you weren’t looking.

Whether you love your tea first thing in the morning or you prefer an afternoon cuppa, you’re bound to love the Great Mississippi Tea Company. Invest in your palette AND the environment!