A new unique Scottish artisanal tea brand developed in Perthshire, Angus and Fife will now take pride of place on the shelves of Fortnum & Mason’s Rare Tea Counter and The Corinthia Hotel’s Royal Suite.
The Nine Ladies Dancing tea has been created by Beverly Wainwright in collaboration with The Tea Gardens of Scotland – a collective of women on a revolutionary mission to create a Scottish grown tea in their home gardens.
Member of The Tea Gardens of Scotland, Pinkie Methven, said:
“The plan was that we all wanted to grow tea in Scotland and a few of us had walled gardens in which we planted 40,000 tea seeds.
“Our first year, the winter was the Beast from the East so that was a massive challenge for us. That was a really hard learning curve, but I guess it made us stronger, more determined and we were lucky because we were a group. We were able to discuss all the problems, worries – anything we needed to.
The finished tea was made and processed in small batches by the Scottish Tea Factory near Crieff – the very first small-scale tea factory to be established in Scotland.
The unique growing conditions in Scotland gave the group a unique set of challenges. With each grower spread out across Scotland, each garden begins its spring and starts its winter season at slightly different times and battles unpredictable elements and wildlife.
Scotland also has a shorter growing season as many seed varieties cannot survive in the cold winters. This meant the group had to use innovative techniques such as using sheep wool for mulch, steeping organic fertilisers and trialling seed grown both in seed beds and straight into the ground.
“We’ve got a really short space in the summer to grow, and I think the challenges have been the winter. The tea doesn’t like wind so lots of wind protection goes up. Unlike other countries that we’ve taken advice from – they have like fluffy snow and it doesn’t weigh the same. We have really thick, heavy, wet snow, and it sits there for ages.
The group of entrepreneurial women sought advice from Beverly Wainwright – a tea consultant who was responsible for setting up The Scottish Tea Factory.
Pinkie praised Beverly’s efforts and that the group were ‘very lucky’ to gain from her expertise through her courses at the Scottish Tea Factory as well as education sessions and fact-finding trips to tea plants in other countries.
Beverly Wainwright said:
“The conditions for growing tea in Scotland are far from ideal, with a very short growing season, harsh winters and low light levels.
“Attempting to grow tea is not for the faint hearted and in the early days has been, by necessity, experimental. Trials with different plant material, winter and wind crop protection have all been part of the process.
“The concept of rehabilitating old abandoned walled gardens to grow tea in a more protected environment has not been without its challenges but these gardens are now beginning to flourish.
“The first teas being created are showing great promise with a distinct flavour profile, significantly influenced by the low light levels and long daylight hours of Scottish summer”