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‘This is our passion’

Library hosts a couple who own the only tea farm in New Jersey

The Monroe library’s board President Joan Betterly (center) welcomed Rich and Michelle DeMarco to the facility after meeting them a month ago.

Tea was the preferred beverage of Colonists in the Americas, more so than coffee. England’s decision to tax led to the famous Boston Tea Party on Dec. 16, 1773 – a spark helping to light the fire of the Revolutionary War.

It was the first of seven tea actions against the English, with the final one occurring in the town square of Greenwich, just four miles from the southwestern-most point of New Jersey, where the Cohansey River flows into the Delaware River at the mouth of the Delaware Bay.

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There is now a Greenwich Tea Burning monument in the town square that Rich DeMarco and his wife Michelle discussed at a recent Monroe library presentation. The couple – who own the only tea farm in the state – told 24 guests about the local history of the beverage.

After the Boston Tea Party, the East India Tea Company became wary, and decided to hide its shipment of tea destined for Philadelphia in the Greenwich basement of loyalist Daniel Bowen’s home, just 30 yards from the center of town.

Rich recalled how on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 22, 1774, a group of 40 young men disguised as Native Americans broke into the cellar and stole all the tea chests. They then started a huge fire that burnt all the tea.

“People back then adored tea. It was a matter of principle,” noted Michelle, who started Greenwich Teaburner’s Tea Co. along with her husband in 2006.

“Greenwich is like the town that time forgot,” echoed her husband, adding that Dec. 22 will mark the 250th anniversary of the tea burning. “The rebels who burnt the tea were angry that the British were trying to tax it. It was the last tea action by the Colonists before the Revolutionary War.”

Located in Cumberland County, the town is often confused with Greenwich Township in Gloucester County. The DeMarcos purchased an old home in 1991, and re-made the existing gardens on the Bridgeton Road property. They soon realized the acidic soil was ideal for growing tree plants.

“People told us you can’t grow tea in New Jersey,” recalled Michelle. “But this is our passion. We started out with 10 plants from Florida. Like growing grapes with wine, the soil makes a big difference.”

The couple now have hundreds of plants and produce about 1,000 pounds of tea a year. It’s for sale at local grocery stores and coffee shops, and the DeMarcos’ many varieties of tea are available at www.greenwichteaburnersteafarmnj.com.

“Our biggest seller is our Natural Immune Support tea,” noted Michelle, who allowed the guests at the library to taste samples from the couple’s Saint Patrick’s Day and spring tea collections.

Guests can also visit the tea farm, where the couple talks about the history of tea and hosts Yoga & Tea parties and “Alice in Wonderland” tea parties, among other events.

The idea to bring the DeMarcos to the Williamstown library was the brainchild of the facility’s board of trustees President Joan Betterly, who met the couple a month ago at the Triple Oaks Nursery in Franklinville and found them fascinating.

“I like having tea parties at my house, and I like to set a table,” said Betterly, who was thrilled that her presentation attracted a full crowd as soon as it was advertised on the library website.

“There are only a handful of tea farmers in the United States now,” observed Rich, including in Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, New York, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. “The tea plants last for more than 100 years and they are evergreens, never losing their leaves.

“Michelle and I are truly just gardeners with a passion for the land and growing tea plants.”

The DeMarcos have proved wrong people who said tea plants could not grow in New Jersey.


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