How we grew and processed our Cornish Tea!

Dydh da tea lovers!

Yes, that’s Cornish for hello as today we will delve into how we achieved the impossible task of growing the First tea in Britain and Cornwall. This article will only provide a brief overview of how we developed the tea grown in England.

If you are a tea enthusiast and want to learn how to grow tea and delving into land cultivation, sowing, irrigation, pruning and harvesting tea we strongly recommend you take our  tea growers guide. 

Why did we decide to grow Cornish Tea?

Camellias have been growing here at Tregothnan for almost 200 years. In fact, Tregothnan pioneered Camellia into Great Britain by growing the first ornamental Camellia. Camellia has thrived to such an extraordinary extent that the original introductions are now growing into their third century and still look youthful!

As a result of our expertise in Camelias, it became a natural progression to start growing the first English black tea by planting the first Camelia Sinensis bush in 1999.

The natural resources of the estate such as the manuka, peppermint, chamomile plants just to name a few created the perfect base to create our delicious herbal infusions range of teas.

Where does our Cornwall tea grow?Picture showing one of Tregothnan's tea gardens

Our Cornish Tea is grown in the unique microclimate on the Falmouth Estuary. Our tea thrives hear from the cool mist protecting the tea bushes from the cooler months of winter and the humid air loses its damaging saltiness near the estuary. Furthermore, Thurston wrote of the Cornish climate in the 19th century that we do not have a winter, merely a languid spring.

Here at Tregothnan tea bushes luxuriate in conditions that are often warmer than Darjeeling in India and free from salt winds and other hazards that afflict coastal regions.

Today we supply our hardiest selections for different growing conditions and since 2002 have supplied some tough plants for the determined enthusiast in Scotland and Northern England. Although the loss rate in colder regions is high and the bushes are largely unproductive it is a tribute to the nation of tea drinkers and gardeners that the efforts continue.

How long does it take our Cornish tea to grow?

Once planted in 1999, our tea bushes grew for around 6 years before we could pick and create the most British tea in history. We started supplying the first homegrown tea in 2005 and our tea plantations have continued to increase ever since.

How we process our tea?

Pluck

The first flush is picked by hand at dawn with just the top two leaves and the bud taken from branches of the Camellia sinensis bush. The leaves are then laid onto bamboo or straw mats to allow gentle withering.

Picture of teas plucking in Tregothnan's gardens

Wither

A warm, dry area is necessary for the leaves to become limp and pliable. The atmospheric conditions affect the amount of time required for the leaves to be withered.

Tea plant withering on a bamboo

Roll

Rolling is a crucial stage in processing black tea. Traditionally rolled by hand (a circular movement between the palms), the more intense the rolling, the stronger the resulting flavour. The leaves should disintegrate in your hands and curl easily into balls as their cell structures become broken and bruised with rolling.

Picture showing rolled tea

Oxidise

The next step is oxidisation. 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. Green tea varies in that oxidisation is replaced by steaming, retaining the natural green colour.

Tea plant oxidising

Dry

The final stage is to dry the leaves to around 5% moisture. For small quantities of tea, a warming oven is ideal. Once the leaves have reduced to a darkened, crisp crunchy state, they are ready for drinking. The ‘bush to cup’ process at Tregothnan takes just 36 hours. All processes are entirely chemical-free and have been sustainable for over 4,000 years.

Tregothnan 250g Breakfast tea