A wee cup of tea

Quash­ing doubts and risk­ing the dre­ich weather, Scot­land’s first tea plan­ta­tion is caus­ing a stir. Kevin Pil­ley talks to the man cre­at­ing a storm in a teacup

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden -

AM O’BRAAN spent four years liv­ing on a ca­noe in the Ama­zon, was bit­ten by a deadly snake in Brazil and was shot at on the Thai/burma bor­der—all of which pre­pared him nicely for his cur­rent chal­lenge: pro­duc­ing Scot­land’s first tea. ‘Tea thrives in fairly hos­tile con­di­tions. Price is de­ter­mined by qual­ity and largely de­ter­mined by stress, which the Scot­tish weather am­ply pro­vides,’ he grins.

Tea-grow­ing over the bor­der isn’t a new idea—dur­ing the Se­cond World War, there were plans to plant tea in Scot­land, spurred by Churchill, who be­lieved a cup of tea to be ‘fun­da­men­tal to Bri­tish morale’. It may not have come into fruition then, but it cer­tainly has now—mr O’braan’s Dal­re­och White is one of the most ex­pen­sive and best teas in the world, re­tail­ing at £40 per 20g tin at Fort­num & Ma­son. The Dorch­ester’s tra­di­tional af­ter­noon tea also now in­cludes a va­ri­ety of Dal­re­och teas.

With the Wee Tea Com­pany at Dal­re­och—gaelic for ‘Field of Kings’— in Perthshire go­ing from strength to strength, Mr O’braan has planted a new

Ttea gar­den in Jed­burgh and, in Septem­ber, he planted the world’s most northerly tea es­tate in Orkney. His ef­forts have also in­spired new en­thu­si­asts—the Scot­tish Tea Grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, founded by Mr O’braan, has 12 mem­bers and rep­re­sents the world’s youngest tea es­tates.

Mem­ber An­gela Hur­rell pro­duces Monarda-scented Gar­rocher Grey, a tea that was given out at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show and is the first Scot­tish-grown tea to be re­lo­cated to Eng­land, now spring­ing up on The Dorch­ester’s rooftop tea ter­race. Fel­low mem­ber the rev Liz Gib­son, a min­is­ter of the Church of Scot­land, of­fers teapick­ing breaks at her croft on Mull, pro­duc­ing Isle of Mull Matcha tea as well as Scot­tish Antler—‘it’s not re­ally made from deer,’ Mr O’braan laughs. ‘Just a catchy name to keep spread­ing the brews.’

Antler Tea was also pre­sented to Barack Obama as a gift from First Min­is­ter ni­cola Stur­geon dur­ing her 2015 visit to the USA. new grower Elma Ball at Bo­hall Farm in Dum­friesshire is plan­ning to ex­per­i­ment with pe­ony tea.

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