Scottish Tea Growers Head to Japan

TGS group attending tea course run by Beverly-Claire Wainwright

Representatives from Tea Gardens of Scotland head east this month to exhibit and present at the Kyoto Infused with Tea Expo in Japan.

Catherine Drummond-Herdman, one of the nine Scottish tea planters who make up the Tea Gardens of Scotland, will speak at the expo about her own unique tea-growing venture in a presentation entitled “Megginch Castle, our family tea story, so far…” Drummond-Herdman’s tea garden exists in the ancient walled garden of her family home in Perthshire, Scotland.

The group’s tea consultant and coordinator, Beverly-Claire Wainwright, will give a presentation about microscale artisan tea production entitled “From Sri Lanka to Scotland.” A short film has been created by the group to mark the occasion.

The pair will offer samples of the group’s Kinnettles Gold tea, the first to come from the collective and the result of Tea Gardens of Scotland founder Susie Walker-Munro’s seven-year-old tea bushes from her garden in Angus, Scotland. Grown from Sinensis sinensis cuttings (before it was possible to import seed), Kinnettles Gold is the only 100 percent pure Scottish black tea and retails at $3,308 (£2500) per kilogram.

Since early 2016, the group has been busy cultivating tea bushes from 40,000 cold tolerant varietal seed sourced from Nepal (Ilam District) and Georgia (ex-Soviet state), with the aim of creating a market for high-end Scottish handmade teas. “Seed for Scotland is a better route as the tea bushes have long tap roots and are more able to cope with our tough weather,” said Walker-Munro. “We are very excited to be already working out what the flavor profiles are of our seed tea.”

Planting tea in Angus, Scotland

The nine group members formed themselves into a company in 2016 to share costs. To date, seedlings have been planted in their various gardens and microtea experiments conducted to assess potential and experiment with the best processing methods. “It will be several years yet before the plants are mature enough to be harvested regularly, however any leaf harvested while conducting formative pruning will be used to make tea,” said Beverly-Claire Wainwright.

She added that from next spring, the group will be offering tea tours by appointment at some of the gardens. This year, they have hosted several visitors, including the Japanese Consul General Mr. Matsunga, organized through Edinburgh Council as part of its twin-city arrangement with the Kyoto Prefecture.

At the Kyoto Infused with Tea Expo, Drummond-Herdman and Wainwright hope to learn more from Japanese masters of handmade teas and bring some of their ancient skills and advice back home to Scotland, as well as demonstrate to expo delegates and attendees their unusual-tasting “western” tea.

“We hope to give attendees the heads up to look out for our teas in the future,” said Walker-Munro. “We will never have the rolling hills of Japan, Assam, China or Kenya, but less is more for us: it is a small-scale business that we embarked upon, but it will produce stunning teas in the future.”