Growers needed to boost UK tea industry

Tea growers in Scotland have formed an alliance in a bid to boost the UK’s tea-growing industry.

The Tea Growers Association is a new body that aims to unite tea growers in Scotland and around the world and support those who want to grow tea for themselves.

The not-for-profit organisation was formed by the Wee Tea Company, which started Scotland’s first tea plantation.

The Fife-based team set up their own plantation on Dalreoch Farm Estate in Amulree in the Scottish Highlands in 2011.

Five things you may not know about tea

  • The Chinese created tea more than 5,000 years ago
  • Camellia sinesis is the evergreen plant from which tea is made
  • Tea contains roughly half the amount of caffeine found in coffee
  • The UK consumes about 130,000t of tea a year, of which 96% is sold in tea bags
  • British people drink 165m cups of tea a day

Despite popular belief, tea plants can survive in -11C weather for sustained periods of time. Therefore, with good soil, water and the altitude of the Scottish Highlands, growing tea there is easier than some would believe.

The association hopes to share their expertise, give technical advice and encourage growers, community groups, educational establishments or keen enthusiasts to grow tea, as well as pool purchasing power.

Tam O’Braan, chief executive of the Tea Growers Association and managing director of the Wee Tea Company, said he took the decision to form the alliance to pool resources and create a support network that could allow for more than one business to exist.

“We knew if we didn’t share what had been achieved, we’d be limiting the capability tea offers and did not want to be that selfish,” he added. “It’s an industry, not just one farm.”

During the past 12 months, the Wee Tea Company said Scottish growers, herb specialists, market gardeners – and even royal estates – who were keen to learn more about growing tea in this country had contacted them.

Many of these groups have now taken delivery and planted their first tea trees.

Highland schools have also joined to create learning forums for the children of the farming community to open up new ideas in young minds. Lochgilphead Joint Campus, located next to Loch Fyne in Angus, planted its own tea garden in August, using a quiet end of the school’s large grounds.

Meanwhile, south of the border, tea-growing projects are under way at East Riding Crop Research in Kent, while the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in London has offered ongoing support.

The Tea Growers Association has also introduced a selling co-operative to allow tea growers to supply retailers in the UK and across the world.

The Wee Tea Company is welcoming others who are interested in growing tea or joining the association to contact them.

Membership is free and selling any tea back as a co-operative completely optional. For further details, visit the website or telephone 01350 725745.

Tea plantation

Dalreoch plantation panorama


Frosty mornings at Dalreoch

All Wee Tea Company packs

All Wee Tea Company packs