Hawk. Far in the dreamy East there grows a plant
Whose native home is the Sun’s Cousin’s garden —
All the Ladies. O, it is Tea.
Hawk. It is.
The Ladies. To think of Tea!
Hawk. Its home lies far in the Valley of Romance,
A thousand miles beyond the wilderness.
(Fill up my cup! I thank you Let us have
On Tea and Love a good tea-table talk!)
It has its home away in Fable land;
Alas! and there too is the home of Love:
Only the Children of the Sun, we know,
Can cultivate the herb or tend it well;
And even so it is with Love, my friends!
A drop of sun-blood needs must circulate
Through our dull veins before the passionate Love
Can root itself or shoot or blossom forth.
(an extract from Love’s Comedy by Henrik Ibsen)
Like Hawk until recently my image of tea growing was of far away places, high altitudes and steeped in colonial history. A few years ago before I moved back to Cornwall I was amazed to find out that we grow tea in the uk and not only in the uk but in Cornwall. It is gown on Lord Falmouth’s estate at Tregothnan.
It seems that Cornwall has the perfect blend of a mild climate with its characteristic ‘dampness’..that the tea-plant just loves!
I didn’t know until then that the tea-plant is Camellia sinesis ..so it all makes sense as Cornwall is packed to the brim with all those spring acid loving plants that delight us as the winter turns it corner. Tregothnan was the first place to grow ornamental Camellia outdoors 200 years ago and it is this expertise along with the unique Cornish micro-climate that helps our tea bushes, Camellia sinensis, to thrive here today.
The website for tregothnan explains how it is produced:
The first flush is picked by hand at dawn, with just two leaves and a bud taken from each camelia bush. The leaves are then laid on bamboo racks to allow gentle withering.
Rolling then takes place if we are processing black tea. This can literally mean rolling the leaves between two surfaces, traditionally by hand. The more intense the rolling, the stronger the resulting flavour.
The next step is oxidation. This involves spreading the rolled leaves on a flat surface and keeping them at a controlled temperature.
As the natural liquids in the cells interact the colour changes from green to brown. The final stage is to dry the leaves to 2% moisture.
Green tea varies from the above in that oxidation is replaced by steaming, retaining the natural green colour.
You can arrange a private visit to the Tregothnan Estate or you can attend their yearly open event, which is what i managed to do. It’s a great time to visit as the whole estate is rich and abundant with camellia’s, magnolia’s, primroses and other late spring plants, here are some pictures:
You can buy Tregothnan tea in many outlets but you can share your drinking experience alongside Claridges in London with the beach cafe at Swanpool (which i covered before in my beach cafe piece) and at the Tregothnan Estate’s own Tea bar at the Smugglers along the river Fal.
I’ve always tried to buy as much as my food from local sources as much as possible and never thought that I’d be able to consume tea grown from less than 10 miles up the river from my house – i can’t tell you how much pleasure this brings me!
Enjoy! Keri – Humble Cottage xx
- For all the tea in Truro: how a Cornish plantation is turning the tables on China (independent.co.uk)
- The British farmers growing exotic crops (guardian.co.uk)
- A History of Tea in about 3 minutes [Ketan JOSHI] (ecademy.com)