Archive for September, 2012

Planting a Biodynamic Tea Garden

 

As an intern at Finca Luna Nueva, one of my projects is to install a new tea garden next to the yoga pavilion. The intention is many fold; we want to increase our tea production to run workshops and tours in the future and to sell tea at the gift shop here at Finca Luna Nueva; another intern is researching the certification and retail aspects of this future product; and we also want our guests attention, while practicing meditation or yoga in the pavilion, to be drawn along the flowing tea rows into the surrounding rainforest. Of course, we also want this garden to be practical and aesthetic, which is why the rows are planted on the contour for ease of harvest and maintenance.

 

This garden will also receive byodynamic compost preparations, and follow a sustainable harvesting and pruning routine following the biodynamic calendar. Each plant and row has been provided plenty of space for long-term development of roots and crowns, not the mention the zig-zag walkway installed to prevent erosion of the land. These tea babies have been seed propagated from a mother tree standing 40 feet tall, planted back in 99′, meaning they have genetic diversity and strong tap roots.
The bed has been officially installed as of yesterday (Sept 18th). It only took two days to plant 145 tea plants, and while some minor landscaping still needs to be done, the bed is in its nascent beginnings. Properly maintained and cared for, it should be harvestable in 3 – 5 years.

 

I’m actually already working on the next garden, which is quite different from the first one. No flowing contour rows this time, but I’ll save that for another blog update. I’m kept quite busy at la finca these days, trying to finish up the cob-oven project (which I’ll blog about in more detail later as well), designing and installing more tea beds, propagating tea, doing lots of Biodynamic research, tending to guests, making chocolate, hiking to volcano craters, and mapping out the logistics for my tea workshop in October, drawing tea pictures and writing agriculture poetry, among other enjoyable activities.

 

Pura Vida

 

 

TLC

Biodynamic Tea (Camellia Sinensis)

This 40+ foot tall tea tree is biodynamically grown and used as a mother to propagate by seed

 

In my last entry, I documented the process of making biodynamic black (red) tea here at Finca Luna Nueva, but what makes it Biodynamic?  First, let me lend you these summaries of Biodynamics to become better acquainted with the practice and philosophy:

 

“The Bio-dynamic Farming and Gardening Method has grown and developed, since 1922, on a foundation of advice and instruction given by the late Rudolf Steiner, a philosopher known for his world-view called Anthroposophy (wisdom of man).
The name ‘Bio-dynamic’ refers to a ‘working with the energies which create and maintain life.’ The term derives from two Greek words ‘bios’ (life) and ‘dynamis’ (energy).”

— BIO-DYNAMICS :- A Short, Practical Introduction

 

“Biodynamic agriculture is a method of farming that aims to treat the farm as a living system which integrates with the environment, to build healthy, living soil and to prouduce food that nourishes and vitalizes and helps to develop mankind. The underlying principle of biodynamics is making lifegiving compost out of dead organic material. The methods are derived from the teachings of Rudolf Steiner and subsequent practitioners.”

— Grasp the Nettle

 

“Bio-dynamics, though not disparaging of common sense, is concerned essentially with consciousness-expansion in regard to plants, animals and soil. The attempt is made to look into the deeper spirit of nature. Out of this deeper awareness, based on exquisite observation of nature, the approach calls for not letting things run their natural course, but for intensifying certain natural processes (creating optimal animal populations, making special compost preparations, planting selected companion plants at certain cosmic constellations), aiding nature where she is weak after so many centuries of abuse, short-cutting destructive processes, and instead using human intelligence, kindness and good will to foster positive developments.”

— Culture and Horticulture – a philosophy of gardening

 

Biodynamics is also a certifiable farming practice (Demeter), which is a broader certification than organics, so if you are biodynamic certified, you are organic by default, but the converse is not true, however.

 

So in one sense, the tea plants here are receiving biodynamic preparations through composting and spray applications, in another sense, we tend to them based on certain lunar cycles and relationships between the moon, sun, planets, and zodiac constellations, and in another sense still, these plants are also subject to the energies and good will generated by the stewards of the land: the farmers dedicated to healing our earth, growing healthy, living, fertile soil, ready to nourish us now and for many generations to come. In a nut-shell, that’s why our tea is biodynamic here at Finca Luna Nueva. It’s also very rare in the sense that this tea is grown sustainably from seed propagated trees whose roots tap deep into the the soil, drawing on the riches of this Rich Coast (Costa Rica). This tea has a living quality about it, a cultivated high vibration; qualities derived from farming practices that go back to the way tea was traditionally raised and revered well before Biodynamics was even defined — and that’s the beauty of Biodynamics; because like any spiritual tradition, it’s a bringing back, a returning, a revitalizing…

 

Biodynamic compost undulating with life and death – and mycellium! It really is like a living organism

 

 

TLC

Biodynamic Organic Black Tea

 

In preparation for our Black Tea workshop** in October, we made Finca Luna Nueva’s first Biodynamic Organic Black Tea last week. (It should really be called a Red tea, but for the sake of simplicity and parlance, we’ll refer to it as Black Tea)

This harvest gave me a chance to put all of my previously learned tea knowledge to the test. Reflecting back on my experiences in Hawaii and Taiwan working on tea farms and in tea factories, and simply listening to the tea plants — as is so important to Biodynamics and the Way of Tea — I put together a simple processing method including indoor withering, hand rolling, de-enzyming, and drying.

When working with such high quality and high vibrational raw material, it’s tough to go wrong. These plants have been propagated from seeds that stem from tea trees ranging between 20 – 40 ft tall here at Finca Luna Nueva. Their root systems tap deep into the riches of the soil, drawing on nutrients and energy not available to younger tea evergreens. Those deep-rooted resources, combined with the intention and benefit received from biodynamic practices, lay the foundation for a materially and spiritually rich tea garden. Que Rico.

We harvested the tea on a mid-afternoon Fruit day during the ascending and waxing phase of the moon according to Stella Natura’s Biodynamic Calendar – 2012. If you’re not following this – don’t worry! We’re just experimenting with lunar cycles and zodiac relationships that will hopefully bear bountiful, healthy, well-keeping harvests.

The tea essentially went through a 19 hour indoor withering period in a room with good circulation, followed by an hour and half of hand rolling to shape, bruise, and coat the leaves with their own juices. Oxidation ensued for three hours. Fixation in an oven brought oxidation to halt, and the tea was dehydrated into a stable state. Considering the climate here, and as I learn more about Biodynamics and the Leaf, I will definitely tweak some small steps in the process, but all in all, we were very pleased with the final product.

Of course, I will almost remember the first infusion: once crisp leaves infusing audibly without, anticipation behind a mask of patience, humid air breathing in and out, aroma developing, profound colouring – earthen orange clay – a moment paying homage, rising to the altar of my lips, steam waving in the immediate environment, smiling satisfaction, what riches…

 

**At the workshop, guests will be able to process their own black tea, learn about cupping vs tasting, become more intimate and personal with Camellia Sinensis, walk the biodynamic tea gardens, and be served in ceremony.

 

TLC