Tea for nine as artisan Courier Country growers band together in new project

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Back row, Jane Spencer-Nairn, treasurer, Sharon Rice-Jones, Rural Perth and Kinross Leader Programme Co-ordinator, Dougie Pond, Chairman of the Local Action Group, Catharine Idle, Rural Fife Leader, front row, Pinkie Methven, tea planter, Bev Wainwright, tea consultant and Susie Walker-Munro, Chairperson of Artisan Tea Gardens Ltd.

Plans are brewing to pour European cash into a project which aims to add tea to the growing list of Courier Country’s favourite home-grown tipples.

In a Scottish first, a nine-strong collaborative of tea farmers in Angus, Fife and Perthshire will use almost £50,000 to meet the challenge of farming the crop in the local climate and pursue the ambition of adding a tea trial to the area’s already extensive platter of food and drink-related tourism draws.

A rural Perthshire plantation was the setting for the launch of the Artisan Tea Gardens Ltd initiative which will benefit from the support of £49,500 through the Leader partnership across the region.

The collaborative comprises two Angus growers, five in Perth and Kinross and two in Fife who hope to command a premium price for their Scottish tea.

Some Scottish producers have successfully bagged a spot at the tea table of top Scottish hotels with their distinctive brews commanding around £10 a pot, with buyers flocking to snap up intriguingly-named varieties like Ecclefechan Oolong, Isle of Mull Matcha and Garrocher Garden Berry Black.

To qualify as tea, the blend needs to contain leaves from the camellia sinensis plant more at home in the humid climes of India, China and Taiwan.

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Scots growers learned that mature plants can thrive in the nation’s relatively cold climate and the range of distinctive varieties is growing rapidly.

The Leader rural development funding will help the project tap into specialist advice from tea consultants and purchase equipment for working in individual gardens.

Within the next few years the group also aims to develop a tea trail around the sites, allowing fans to see the gardens and compare the teas.

Angus LEADER co-ordinator Dave Tollick said: “Artisan Tea Gardens Ltd have two years of development work to look forward to at sites across Angus, Perth and Kinross and Fife.

“The potential is for the gardens involved to provide ground-breaking new tea products and, eventually, to develop training courses for growers and, hopefully, a tea-trial around the gardens for tea fans.

“Vodka, gin and now tea are all being made in Angus — who’d have thought?”

Leader Local Action Groups (LAGs) are made up of representatives from local communities, businesses and organisations with an interest in rural development.

The LAG Leader 2014-2020 programme is part-funded by the Scottish Government and the European Community and aims to improve the quality of life and prosperity in rural communities through locally driven initiatives and projects.

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