28 April 2016
The quality of tea from any garden depends on so many variables. Firstly there is the field practice: the pruning cycles, the maintenance of the soil and removal of risk factures such as pest infestations or fungal infections. Then come the natural factors: the precipitation being the most obvious. A little tension is good but too much will damage the plants. The hail we saw in March is another perfect example of another risk that may just arrive unexpectedly out of nowhere. A week of sun before the pluck will give a different flavour to a week of rain as will cold nights or warm nights and the list goes on and on. Next is the human factor the choice of moment to pluck, and the quality of leaf selection, the adaptation of the wither, all choices that depend on management skills and sensitivity to the artisanal process.
There are times that all these variables line up and even a garden that was making mediocre teas will suddenly find itself in a period of quality, other times gardens of great reputation will suddenly loose control due to crop failure, labour issues or bad management.
There are a couple of gardens that have popped up on my radar in the last couple of years. One is Oaks, a small garden of mostly old classic plants, fully organic. Though not all their offerings were of interest to me this year a couple were well-balanced, aromatic and really punchy in a classic style First Flush. You will see them cropping up in the Catalogue this Spring and I will be keeping an eye on them in the next few harvests.
Another garden that caught my attention last year was Badamtam, again fully organic with both classic and clonal sections. Some of their young plants are giving full, sweet cups with great aromatic bouquets so another to look out for this Spring.