| Tim Clifton samples the tea. (Reuters)
London, Oct. 4: The stuff is grown in Darjeeling or Assam but the British ' perhaps they drink more of the brew than anyone else ' have always cheekily claimed it as “English tea”.
And from today they can genuinely claim to have their home-grown English tea, which comes from an ancient estate called Tregothnan in Cornwall on the southern tip of England.
The tea was formally launched today at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, west London, where the people present sipped three varieties on offer ' Green, Classic and Afternoon ' and pronounced themselves satisfied.
Only 28 acres are currently under cultivation but the estate is understandably proud of its tea.
Lucy Simpson, the sales manager in Cornwall, said: “The first ‘true English tea’ has finally arrived, and has been heralded by BBC Radio 4 as ‘the next Darjeeling’. The drink England has put its name to for centuries is for the first time growing on English soil.”
She added: “In unique conditions, helped by the Cornish climate, the tea feels at home amongst huge magnolias and rhododendrons that grow amongst the best tea in other regions of the world. This is not high-volume tea but is designed to satisfy the tea connoisseur.”
She described the estate: “Tucked away on the banks of the River Fal in Cornwall is the Tregothnan Estate botanical garden, home of Lord Falmouth’s family since 1335 and the first garden in the United Kingdom to cultivate tea. It is here on the south-facing slopes that the first tea plants, Camellia sinensis, have been grown. Now, some seven years since first planting and aided by the perfect amount of rain and humidity, the leaves have matured and the ultimate tea is ready.”
The tea is many times the price of the supermarket variety. The green tea, for example, is '11.50 for 25 bags and '21 for 100 gm as loose leaf. The tea is also sold blended with Chinese and Darjeeling.
Among those present at the launch and tea-tasting ceremony at Kew was Tim Clifton, a former chairman of the Tea Brokers’ Association who is acting as international consultant to the Cornwall estate.
Also there was William Gorman, executive director of the UK’s Tea Council, who commented: “The area under cultivation produces only modest quantities of tea. They are not going to threaten the traditional tea producers.”
He said the specialist tea market in Britain was growing at 7 per cent a year, and there was “great consumer interest” in the product from Tregothnan.
He had personally tried the green tea. “It’s excellent,” said Gorman.
The British drink 165 million cups of tea every day or 60 billion cups a year, making them the largest consumers of tea pert head in the world. But the English are divided over whether the milk should be added first or last, and they have not really discovered the joy of drinking sweet tea from an earthen cup that is smashed on railway platforms.
The Cornwall tea is the idea of Tregothnan’s head gardener, Jonathon Jones, and his employers, the Boscawen family.
He believes that in time, tea estates could become a familiar sight on the Cornish landscape. Cuttings and seed have been imported from the main tea-growing areas, including Darjeeling, regarded as the home of the finest tea.
“We grow wine grapes successfully in the county and there is no reason why we can’t grow tea here,” said Jones. “There was an attempt to grow tea in Britain during the Second World War when there was a fear that supplies might be interrupted by the U-boats, but it never got anywhere. It has taken seven years to reach the stage where the Tregothnan crop is ready for plucking.”