The Scottish Tea Factory provides a state-of-the-art professional tea leaf processing location for Scottish tea growers. It resides on the Comrie Croft grounds, an eco-camping and mountain biking destination about 62 miles Northwest of Edinburgh, Scotland. Owner Beverly Wainwright’s mission is to help facilitate the production of quality tea in Scotland.
Wainwright had a successful photography business for several years until in 2009 she decided to change directions and began working with the Voluntary Service Overseas. She moved to the remote Sri Lankan province of Monaragala during the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict. There she worked for the Chamber of Commerce and helped small dairy and rice farmers develop their businesses. In 2010 she met the owners of the struggling Amba Tea Estate in the Uva province and was offered a job there in 2011 as the Estate Manager for the purpose of making it profitable. There she learned about processing tea, which was then sold to Harney & Sons.
In January 2015, she returned to Scotland and worked for Teacraft as an Associate Consultant and helped Susie Walker Munro of the Tea Gardens of Scotland develop the Kinettles Gold Tea.
With the help of a grant from the Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER Programme 2014-2020: The European Union Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, combined with her personal funds and a loan, Wainwright built the Scottish Tea Factory last year. Its function is to support the country’s cottage tea industry, which has nearly 30 small-scale growers. “There are a lot of people who have spend quite a lot of money to grow tea, but they don’t know how to make it,” said Wainwright. “So there was a need perceived for somebody who does know about tea making to offer a service to Scottish Tea Growers, which is the reason for the Scottish Tea Factory.”
Wainwright’s son who is an architectural technologist in England, designed the tea factory. Construction commenced at the beginning of 2018 and it opened in August 2018. It is a wooden two-room building that is connected to Comrie Croft’s solar arrays. One room is the factory, which houses two small dryers, a small orthodox roller and a roasting pan from China, and withering racks. Wainwright is also looking for a proving machine for oxidizing tea, as well as into different ways of steaming for making different types of green tea. The second room is designated for teaching.
There is a membership scheme for Scottish growers who want to use the tea factory and have the option of receiving Wainwright’s training and help with processing.
“Most of the tea in Scotland is still immature,” she said. “So it’s going to be another couple of years before you start to see any product.”
The next two years will be an important exploratory period focusing on experimentation with small batches and various small growers to figure out which processing methods are best for each particular leaf and tea garden, said Wainwright.
Last August, Wainwright produced the factory’s first tea—about 20 micro-batches—which had been grown in Scotland’s Angus, Fife and Perthshire regions. The tea was sent to Aberdeen University for a research study covering whether a tea’s provenance can be proven. “We want to make sure there is total transparency,’ Wainwright said. “If we are selling genuinely home-grown home-produced tea, we now have a way of proving that.”
In addition to tea production, the tea factory is a learning center. Wainwright, who is affiliated with the UK Tea Academy, offers professional tea courses as well as tea experiences. She wants learning to be fun for everyone, regardless of their level of prior exposure to tea, “I want anybody off the street to be able to come for a few hours and enjoy tasting tea and learning about tea.” A small tea garden surrounds the factory so people can see how tea plants look. Tea experiences are available by appointment.
The monthly UK Tea Academy Tea Champion course is an entry-level course that lasts two full days and covers the history of tea, the different types of tea, how tea is made, tea and health, and tea blending. The UK Tea Academy is the only body in the UK that provides certified professional-level tea courses.
There is also a Tea Club for local residents. Wainwright hopes to create a blend out of the tea leaves grown in their tea gardens and sell it. Any profits would go back into a community project.
“It’s about having some fun with tea and meeting some good people along the way,” she said, and added, “If you help other people along the way, you get a lot back.”
She plans to go to Myanmar this April to help tea farmers there.