Monday, 26 May 2008

A Cornish brew - England's only estate tea

The South West is the home of the cream tea and it can now be enjoyed at a whole host of locations in the region with a truly English cuppa.

England’s first tea estate at Tregothnan, in Cornwall, takes advantage of the mild climate and humidity to grow Chinese and Indian leaf tea which is hand-picked from April to October and blended with other exotic leaves to make four different varieties (Classic, Afternoon, Earl Grey and Green).

The tea plantation is the idea of the estate owner, the Honourable Evelyn Boscawen. Cultivation began nine years ago and has been increasingly bearing fruit since 2005. Last year produced just under a tonne of tea.

“We can’t compete with the Tropics but the conditions are similar to those for a high-altitude, slow growing tea like Darjeeling,” says Jonathon Jones, garden director at Tregothnan.

Following in the footsteps of specialty tea shops in London, such as Tea Smith in Spitalfields and Tea Palace in Notting Hill, the estate is now offering day-long tea tasting courses run by expert tutors Tim Clifton and Jane Pettigrew.

“We drink 165 million cups a day in the UK and don’t think about it much. Like wine, each tea is distinctive, has regional varieties and there are stacks of myths,” says Jones.

The estate also makes an iced Earl Grey tea using its own well water and a range of new herbal infusions, including Manuka Bush, a tea popular with the Maori people in New Zealand.

“What could be more English than tea grown on English soil,” says Jones, who claims that Tregothnan has been “doing sustainability” since 1335 when it came into the hands of Boscawen’s ancestors.

Of the 80 or so places serving a Tregothnan brew in Devon and Cornwall, Jones recommends a cream tea at Charlotte’s Tea House in Truro or Greys Dining Room in Totnes, Devon.

So is coffee next?

“I won’t rule it out. We could grow it indoors. But it’s not as English as tea.”

For more information on Tregothnan estate: (01872 520007;

The English Riviera Cream Tea Festival runs from April 18-23:

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