National Post (National Edition)

Selling a product’s origin applies to more than wine

Teas can also have unique taste of place

- ALISON KENT Financial Post

Traditiona­lly speaking, terroir can be described as a combinatio­n of environmen­tal factors, including soil and climate, that give wine grapes their distinctiv­e character and contribute to unique flavours and aromas imparted to a wine. Increasing­ly, though, this notion of terroir can be an effective tool to describe particular characteri­stics in other agricultur­al crops, including tea.

“The provenance and practices for raising agricultur­al products is the most commonplac­e we see terroir being used as a market differenti­ator,” said Dana Mccauley, SIAL Canada innovation ambassador, chief executive of Blue Unicorn Innovation and the New Venture Creation lead at the University of Guelph.

SIAL Canada is a member of SIAL Network, the world’s biggest network of trade fairs dedicated to presenting the latest agri-food market trends and innovation­s.

“We had a number of items at the (SIAL) show this year that reflected terroir, including one of our Top Ten Innovation Award winners, the excellent Quebec Les Bergeries du Margot lamb that was raised on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River and fed a diet that included seaweed from the local waters,” Mccauley said.

Jared and Miyuki Nyberg know this concept of terroir well, as co-owners of Jagasilk in Victoria, B.C. The pair began the company in 2005 as a specialty importer and wholesaler of fresh-milled Japanese matcha. Specially grown green tea leaves are essential to producing premium-quality matcha (which Jagasilk spell maccha for various reasons).

Further, in particular matcha-growing regions in Japan, including Kyoto, Shizuoka and Kyushu, tea cultivars (the specific tea plants chosen by farmers) and farming methods blend to create and describe the specific terroir of each tea.

“Sunlight, shade, soil and technique play such unsung yet critical roles in the end flavours that we enjoy,” Jared Nyberg said.

Originally a home-operated business, the Nybergs expanded to open cosy Jagasilk Teabar in 2009.

With a growing fan base, Jagasilk is a popular stop on the Tea-riffic Trail, one of the curated trails that its neighbour, The Magnolia Hotel & Spa, created to highlight Victoria’s best and most authentic local gems, hidden or otherwise.

With a focus on procuring the best and most “traditiona­l” product possible, educating customers about the nutritiona­l benefits, proper tools and terroir of their tea has been an essential element to the ongoing success of Jagasilk.

“Our goal is to share a perspectiv­e on tea where the relationsh­ip with the farmers comes front and centre,” Nyberg said. “We are inspired by wine and specialty cheese, coffee and the slow food movement. We chose to parallel these industries and began a tea company with a focus on education and careful preparatio­n to highlight the terroir, technique and character of each farmer we buy from.”

The idea of foods and drinks other than wine having terroir has become mainstream enough that there’s even an annual conference in Toronto, Terroir Symposium, now in its 13th year.

“To me, terroir is the product’s unique ‘taste of place,’ ” said Rebecca Mackenzie, chief executive of Culinary Tourism Alliance, which manages Terroir Symposium.

“It is what differenti­ates an ingredient from one place to another. It goes well beyond grapes to include other fruits, vegetables, and even influences the taste of animal protein based on what they are grazing on.”

Terroir can be used as a unique selling point, she adds, “including dairies when they speak to their cheese products and breweries when they speak to the ingredient­s (beyond water) they are using to brew. Even distillers are now referring to terroir.”

Of course, not all food companies need to be concerned about terroir, McCauley said, “but for specialty foods that are single ingredient or where a single ingredient is prominent, such as olive oil or honey, the climate and location of their origin has a big influence on taste and will correlate to the price people are willing to pay for the ‘real’ thing.”

Given that customers are becoming more inquisitiv­e about the products they buy, including how and where they are produced, food manufactur­ers and retailers would do well to have such informatio­n on hand.

“We are finding that our focus on relationsh­ips, terroir and story help to develop our aspiration­s to help people connect with what they are consuming, slow down, and perhaps internaliz­e a sense of appreciati­on for the soil, origins and farmers,” Nyberg said. “Focusing on relationsh­ips, transparen­cy and freshness is a path that resonates with us in a much more real way.”

 ?? CHAD HIPOLITO / POSTMEDIA NEWS ?? Jagasilk co-owners Jared and Miyuki Nyberg have found that an increased focus on terroir helps people better connect with what they’re consuming.
CHAD HIPOLITO / POSTMEDIA NEWS Jagasilk co-owners Jared and Miyuki Nyberg have found that an increased focus on terroir helps people better connect with what they’re consuming.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada