Introducing the First Scottish Tea

Winner at the 2015 Salon de The awards in Paris

Grower Tam O'Braan reveals the story behind the first Scottish tea.
Tam O'Braan

How it began

I'm an agronomist, and in my previous role I was travelling around the world working on issues of food security and developing methods for growing in difficult conditions - useful practice for producing tea in Scotland!

I met my friend Jamie Russell 10 years ago. A tea maker, he was running a high-end tea shop in Edinburgh which only served loose teas. After I sold my business, I came to Scotland and we had the idea of growing tea here.

Getting started

In 2011, I started propagating tea plants to prove tea could be grown in Scotland.

Camellia sinensis is originally a wild mountainous plant that happily grows in the Himalayas, so I thought it would thrive in the Scottish Highlands. We have altitude, mountain air and pure spring water.

Disaster

By 2012, we had the first 2,000 tea plants ever grown in Scottish soil. By the the end of that year there were 4,000 plants.

And then - disaster. We were hit by the coldest winter for 100 years, and all the plants appeared to die.

Fortunately, after a dispiriting wait, in the spring of 2013 they returned in a glorious demonstration of their true origins.

Tea plantation

Budding business

By 2014, we had 14,000 plants and our first commercial flush from 14 February. Our Valentine's Flush was exceptional and we started to look for a partner to take us forward into the bigger world of tea. Up until then we kept quiet in case it failed and just looked ridiculous!

We met Fortnum & Mason's International Director Darren Williams, who put us in touch with similar plantations making handmade, authentic and artisan teas. It really helped us on the way to making our Dalreoch Teas.

tea leave
Dalreoch
white tea

Dalreoch Estate teas

Dalreoch means 'Field of the King'. King Robert the Bruce's men regularly camped with William Wallace on the land which became our plantation. We think it adds a certain something to our teas!

Our First Teas

Dalreoch White is a classic white tea with hints of nuttiness and honey behind a crisp lightness. Dalreoch Smoked is cold-smoked to produce a light peaty richness - completely unique and most enjoyable, even for drinkers of non-smoked teas.

We were very excited when Fortnum's wanted to sell our teas, and think we can offer something really new and different to the tea connoisseur.

The Future

We have lots of plans for Dalreoch Teas, including black and green varieties. Watch this space!