Posted in Kafevend Blog
After water, tea is the most popular beverage in the world – a fact that comes as no surprise to committed lifelong tea drinkers. What may raise more of an eyebrow is that some of the tea which is brewed to create the six billion cups we get through each day, on a global basis, is grown here in the UK.
Kafevend blog stalwarts may recollect previous mention of tea from the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall. After much experimentation, the Estate gathered in its first tea harvest in 2005. Ten years later the company is producing some 35 blends and even exporting its wares to the cradle of tea itself, China. Perhaps the fact that this British tea phenomenon is taking place down in Cornwall makes it easier to believe; after all the south west tip of the UK is known for its milder climate. Far less clement is the weather in Scotland and yet it's north of the border that we're taking you in the blog today, as we consider another highly successful British tea growing enterprise!
First though, we need to cross the Channel to France, more specifically to the Salon du Thé awards in Paris, where this year the Gold Award went to a smoked white tea cultivated in none other than Perthshire. You may have picked up on this rather unexpected piece of news already; the winner of the prestigious prize has been celebrated in the media recently. So what can we tell you about this company and its prize winning tea?
Nestled in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands, on the Dalreoch Estate, is a tea plantation belonging to the Wee Tea Company. Having expanded from small beginnings in 2011, to include some 2,000 camellia sinensis plants today, its current success is testament to the staying power of Tam O'Braan, the Irishman behind the unlikely success story.
His perseverance was put to the test early on when the harsh winter of 2012 devastated the tea plants. Fortunately, O'Braan was no novice when it came to cultivation techniques, having spent time in a variety of locations around the world researching the best ways to grow organic foods in marginal climates. He argues that Scotland is actually a prime spot for cultivating fine teas. Like the Himalayas, Scotland has plenty of rain and low lying cloud and while he concedes that the obvious difference is in the lack of sunshine, points out that this can be used to advantage; to create a fine tea you don't want the leaves to become over photosynthesised, but rather, to remain paler in colour. The tips of the plants can then be harvested and processed to create delicate white tea and it's the company's smoked white variety which has won such great acclaim at the tea awards in Paris. Unlike the heavily smoked lapsang souchong, this tea has a very delicate smoky aroma for the purpose of bringing out the tea's own natural sweetness.
As you might imagine, a tea of such rarity and high calibre doesn't come cheaply. Fortnum and Mason stock it, but you're certainly not likely to encounter it at your local supermarket. However, white tea aficionados can get their hands on it via the company's website where 15g retails for £35. That's just over half an ounce, so savour it by sipping slowly!