All-American July 4 at the California Tea Farm

Although Roy’s still in China, Grace convened a gathering of friends, family, and teahouse staff to observe July 4 with the California tea farm’s first barbeque. Originating from China, the US, Germany, and Vietnam, the group was the perfect mix to commemorate the birth of a nation that flourishes on diversity and big meals.

We arrived in triple-digit afternoon heat that typifies summer in California’s agricultural areas. It was a full 30 degrees hotter than the weather back in San Francisco. Spring’s green hills have turned a shimmering gold and crops are flourishing in the fields. Even on a holiday, roadside produce stands overflowed with fresh fruit, vegetables, and local honey. Other than the jackrabbit that raced the car down the driveway, most of the farm’s abundant wildlife seemed to be on siesta. Half a dozen of Roy’s large koi huddled in the slim shadow of the pond’s footbridge. Not a single hawk circled in the cloudless sky. Following their example, we dragged some chairs into a shady nook with a pleasant breeze, brewed two family-sized pots of green tea (known for its cooling properties), and spent the next two hours leisurely drinking tea and eating watermelon slices.

As the shadows slowly lengthened, the farm returned to life. Bullfrogs began to croak and a few birds dotted the sky. An expedition set out exploring and returned with an armful of ripe red plums plucked from a single tree. After awhile Grace and daughter Emily fired up the grill.

It was a simple yet satisfying feast celebrating midsummer’s bounty, an all-American July 4 cookout with some distinctive Asian touches. Along with the requisite watermelon and grilled corn on the cob we snacked on boiled mao dou (soybeans). Instead of iced in tumblers the tea was served warm in small cups; the tumblers held fresh coconut milk. The steaks on the grill were all-American, while the chicken wings had a succulent barbeque sauce enhanced with soy sauce and passion fruit. The juicy grilled chicken legs were basted in Grace’s special green tea marinade. To observe the holiday properly, we all ate until we were bursting.

When the sky began to darken, Venus glinted above the horizon like a beacon. Later, a thousand stars came out, quite a treat for us city dwellers who rarely see the heavens. When we strolled to the solitary cottonwood tree near the farm’s summit, we could make out three separate fireworks spectacles in the distance. We all agreed that come September, there couldn’t be a finer place east of West Lake to celebrate the Moon Festival by drinking tea, eating moon cakes, and admiring the reflection of the Harvest Moon on the scenic little pond. That’s an experience we can’t wait to share with all of you when the tea farm opens to the public in a year or two.