Tayside and Central Scotland

Wee Tea Company brewing success at Perthshire plantation

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Media captionThe Fife-based Wee Tea Company team have set up their own plantation in Highland Perthshire

Scotland's first tea plantation has opened in Perthshire.

Talk of tea plantations usually conjures up images of Indian hillsides and Sri Lankan glens, but Scottish cuppas will soon include leaves grown in Highland Perthshire.

The Fife-based Wee Tea Company was set up two years ago by Jamie Russell and Derek Walker, initially as specialist tea blenders.

However they have now moved into growing their own tea, and their plantation at Dalreoch is already home to 2,000 plants, making it one of the largest in Europe.

Leaves are being harvested from the plantation already, and could make their way into local brews as soon as next year.

The UK consumes 165 million cups of tea every day.

But not many know that to qualify as tea, the blend needs to contains leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant.

And while the plant is normally at home in the humid climes of India, China and Taiwan, the Wee Tea pioneers realised that once plants had matured enough they can thrive even in the relatively chilly conditions of central Scotland.

Image caption Most of the world's top blends originate on the slopes of Sri Lanka, India or China
Image caption The Perthshire plantation's unique soil and water lend a "delicate, almost nutty" taste to the tea

They use a range of cutting-edge techniques to protect the shrubs against high winds and frost and develop their root systems.

And Mr Russell reckons the slopes of Dalreoch Hill could be the perfect spot to grow the leaves locally.

"It's a hillside - it's good to have elevation to grow tea - and there's a natural Highland spring there, so we have fresh water rolling off the hillside and watering our tea plants," he said.

"The best plantations in the world are high up - the Darjeeling region in India is in the Himalayan mountains."

And like tea grown in speciality regions around the world, Perthshire tea has its own distinctive flavour, drawn from the local soil and water.

"It's quite a delicate and almost nutty flavour - it definitely has its own taste," said Mr Russell.

"The tea industry is a bit like the wine industry - it's all to do with the earth and the water and the elevation.

"The soil that the plants are grown in give it its own unique flavour."

Image caption Blends must contain the leaves of the Camelia Sinensis plant to qualify as tea

Growing tea locally is not just a tasty alternative - it also makes business sense.

Wee Tea Company co-founder and director Derek Walker said the Dunfermline firm was "on a mission to produce truly local tea".

He said: "As we all become more aware of our carbon footprint, and as consumers look more closely at where food truly comes from, it is clear food buyers want home grown produce.

"Scotland is blessed with clean air, fresh spring water and good soil. In many ways, our growing conditions are ideal."

The Wee Tea Company manufactures a whole range of tea blends, including a breakfast blend, a minty green tea, camomile and lavender, Earl Grey, ginger chai, and Darjeeling.

They hope that in the next year, they will be ready to start using locally-grown tea in their blends.

And until then, guided tours of the plantation are on offer to let people see first-hand where their cuppa comes from - with a fresh brew made up of local leaves included.

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