Rankeilour Tea Garden, Fife
Not currently open to the public - Private group tours and accommodation by appointment
Our Tea Garden is in what remains of an old walled vegetable garden, which was used as a market garden and nursery before lying fallow for several years. We had been following the Kinnettles Tea project with interest and when our family moved back to the farm three years ago we were keen to help form the Tea Gardens of Scotland group and try for ourselves. There is a strong gardening tradition in both sides of our families - flowers and vegetables - as well as a tea drinking tradition, so it is lovely to be able to combine the two.
Most of the tea garden is protected from the winds by the high walls and a tall hedge, although a quarter of our plants are just outside in the orchard in the reflected warmth of the south facing stone, and perhaps the tea flavours will develop differently in the two different “terroir” soil conditions. Pest control is aided by the chickens who are very partial to a slug and it’s preferable to using slug pellets! .
With the help and support of Tea Gardens of Scotland, we planted out 1800 coldresistant variety Nepali seedlings into our half-acre two summers ago. In the first winter the Beast from the East demolished our winter protection and many of our plants with it. However, they are tough little things and most have re-sprouted from the bottom, encouraged by the milder second winter and two good summers. We have had quite a variation in temperatures over the seasons and it will be interesting to see how the plants will develop in the Scottish conditions!
We feel that initially we are looking to produce a black tea and then possibly extend to a green tea once we are confident in our product. Our first tentative plucking last year yielded just enough leaves for our wonderful tea consultant to make one batch of black tea which had interesting notes of pumpkin and cinnamon. This year we are seeing a lot more leaf which will be used for experimentation to find the best method of making a beautiful Rankeilour tea for the future. It is a fascinating adventure we have embarked upon and we are looking forward to many challenging and rewarding years to come as we continue to learn about this complex subject.