Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Tea and Terroir: what gives tea its unique characteristics? Topography?

11 Apr

Wow! Where did the last week go? Sometimes in a small business there just aren’t enough hands on deck, hours in the day or days in the week! Well, this week was one of those so apologies for my delay in posting the next part of the Tea and Terroir blog. A little delayed, but here you go…

So we’ve already learnt that climate plays a huge part in the magic of a tea’s unique characteristics, but what else plays a part?

Topography (the relief of the land) – in a nutshell this takes into account how the altitude and latitude (the degree of the slope of the mountain) of a particular place determine the tea garden’s exposure to wind, rain, frost, sunshine, shade and drainage.

Having recently been to Sri Lanka I have been lucky enough to experience the diverse climate and topography and therefore flavour and characteristics of its tea, first hand. I loved chatting to the wonderful Herman, owner of the tropical Handunugoda tea estate, about Sri Lanka’s unique topography and how it determines how their tea is grown and therefore, how it tastes.

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Herman explained that Sri Lankan teas are not classified by season or climate but instead by elevations: low, mid and high-grown tea. Each elevation lends itself to unique flavours and characteristics – mellow and rich low-grown, aromatic citrusy mid-grown and intense high-grown – and even price point!

In the high mountain tea growing areas, the native China tea bush, the Camellia Sinensis, flourishes even on incredibly steep slopes as high as almost 8000 feet. At this height the thin air slows the leaf growth. This growth is focused around an optimum picking period so their yield is half that of the tea bushes grown in the much lower tropical tea gardens.

Sri Lanka tea

In the tropical Southern tea growing parts of the island where Herman’s beautiful estate is, the tea bush flourishes more consistently all year round and produces a more mellow and rich flavour and the teas are easier to harvest.

The lower yields, coupled with the difficulty in harvesting the tea in the highlands lead to a more intense flavour and a much higher price point for the high elevation teas.

Next time, the final focus will be on geology and terroir.

Tea and terroir: what gives a tea its unique characteristics? Climate.

28 Mar

Last time we looked at what term terroir means. Despite having a broad understanding of terroir and how it affects tea, this series is giving me a whole load of fascinating new information. I have a naturally inquisitive nature and I love learning! So here’s what I have discovered…

So, what factors contribute to terroir? There are various trains of thought on what exactly makes up terroir, but there  is a general consensus that the following elements determine a tea’s unique flavour, aroma, health benefits and even its cost:

Climate: everything about a places’ unique climate – the temperature, how much the sun shines, how much it rains and how windy it is – affect how well and when tea grows.

Take the beautiful tropical island of Sri Lanka, I was lucky enough to visit recently, for example. Despite being small it has a really varied climate. This means that the island can produce an array of different teas in abundance all year round,  making it the fourth largest tea producer in the World!

Sri Lanka tea

In places like Uva in the eastern highlands of Sri Lanka there have very hot and dry Cachan winds from July to September that cause the tea trees’ leaves to curl up to protect them from the draught. This encourages the cells of the leaves to replace lost moisture, so the teas made in Uva at this time of year are really juicy and full fo flavour. Nowhere else in the world experiences this windy climate, it’s unique. Therefore these Uva teas are – understandably – very pricey!

Tomorrow, how topography affects a tea’s unique characteristics.

Destination happiness

6 Feb

We firmly believe in the curative power of a journey or a mini break. Remember the motto “happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life”? Yes, sounds sensible, but in terms of travelling, we beg to disagree! While the journey itself can be incredibly rewarding, we think that happy destinations definitely exist, and that they bring out the best in us because they make us feel more positive and relaxed. In this list you’ll find some exotic spots, but other places that are closer than you think!

Beach of Tangalla, South Sri Lanka, by Milei.vencel

Beach of Tangalla, South Sri Lanka, by Milei.vencel

1. Sri Lanka. 

Amazing beaches, incredible spices that crown the perfect curry, awesome tea (like our own Smoky!), ancient ruins, welcoming locals… This tropical island in Southern Asia is a place to relax, whether this involves snorkeling, whale-watching or dedicating some time to your own spiritual awakening, as there are many meditation courses in English to discover.

Nerja (Málaga)

Nerja (Málaga)

2. Nerja, Spain.  

The Costa del Sol can be very touristy, but some places are less crammed than others. Nerja is a beautiful, friendly fishing village that makes most of its income from tourism, but still feels peaceful, simple and charming. As well as the best possible climate, with proper summer days even in the winter, you’ll enjoy beautiful views, fresh grilled fish by the turquoise sea and thirteen kilometres of beaches. Don’t miss the astonishing, fairytale-like Nerja Caves.

3. Capri, Italy. 

In Greek mythology, Capri was the island of the sirens. Just a few miles off the bay of Naples,  it’s an excellent base to visit Sorrento, Amalfi, Naples, or, if you love history, the ruins of Pompeii. A great place for hiking, swimming, discovering ruins and grottoes and enjoying some of the local delights, such as juicy tomatoes, peppery rocket and creamy buffalo mozzarella. Very busy in the summer months, this is a sunny spring destination that will make you think of the perennial glamour of classic Hollywood films.

4. Cornwall, England. 

Cornwall’s own micro climate means that spring comes earlier here than elsewhere in the UK. This is the place to enjoy traditional English picnics with ginger beer (á la Famous Five) on remote beaches, hike among the wildflowers with the deep blue sea in the background or spend a day visiting dramatic ruins, then enjoy a local pint and some fresh mussels in the pub.

Old streets in Chania, Crete, by Jose Concalves

5. Crete. 

The biggest of the Greek islands is full of wonders: beautiful coastlines with turquoise sea; awe-inspiring  ancient ruins; charming, friendly tavernas where you can enjoy traditional music and complimentary raki; narrow, flowery streets full of artisan products and local olive oil and, of course, the food. Breakfast by the sea with sesame breadrolls, the best feta cheese you’ll ever try, tomato, olive oil, olive tapenade, decadent Greek yoghurt and sweet, cinnamony kalitsounia.

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