Sunday, September 15, 2013

Teafarm: Canadian Tea Garden, Sochi Russian Tea Plants

Before leaving Vancouver Island there had to be a visit to Canada's only tea garden, Teafarm. This tea farm is one of the Northern most in the world and one of the first in Canada (wonder what ever happened to this one?). Located in Vancouver Island's Cowichan Valley it is at the center of the Cittaslow movement in Canada. Cowichan Valley is a location that combines the slow pace of island life and the Islanders value of food and tea culture- it feels like the perfect place for a tea shop and garden.

Tea Farm's owners, Margrit and Victor, decided in 2010 to devote their time entirely to tea. They primarily offer herbal teas and blends many of which contain ingredients from their farm. One first met them at the 2011 Victoria Tea Festival. It was there where the first spoke of their challenges to find a tea plant hardy enough to withstand the Winter conditions. After much research they decided on a variety of Camellia sinensis found around Sochi Russia. This variety famously known in Russia for the Krasnodar Tea which is produced from its leaves has proven to be the right balance of taste and hardiness. It turned out that deer (that are a daily sight even in Victoria) turned out to be more dangerous than the elements. This year they nearly wiped out the small, unprotected tea garden in one night.

Even though Teafarm is most famous for these Camellia sinensis tea plants, the garden is more of just a marketing gimmick or research project right now. All of the Camellia sinensis tea you see in the store for sale is actually imported. The amount of tea plants are so few that the plants would only produce about 300g of tea in total for the year. Even this, the tea plants have not even been used to make tea yet because they had not had their 3-5 years of initial growth. The whole topic is an interesting topic of conversation anyways.

People come for the laid back tea drinking atmosphere, Margrit's unique tea pottery, and Victors charm. It was a very enjoyable and scenic morning that day. Being engulfed with good friends surrounded in nature is what sharing tea is all about. This is most definitely a place for that.



Unknown said...

The Sochi is being grown here in the Slocan Valley also. Most in row covers as it would not survive the 6 feet of snow we usually get. I have several indoor Sochi plants which I have harvested into Black Tea. The taste of which is not great.

Matt said...

Cloud Mountain Tea,

Yeah, there is lots of talk of small tea gardens here and there- most for personal consumption. This is essentially the same thing at Teafarm.

Maybe the best way to utilize the harvest would be to mix the sochi leaf with another smoother tasting imported tea? Then you could market it as using local tea in a blend?

Apparently Sochi historically had lots of issues with taste.

Thanks for your thoughts and comments.


Unknown said...

We have recently planted a micro tea farm of Sochi varietal plants in back of our tea house. 48 plants in all. A customer recently brought me some Caucus region Sochi black tea. It tastes pretty smooth. Thanks for sharing!