Scotland boasts a great variety of natural produce, including an unexpected crop: tea. Despite the challenging climate, a small group of Scottish growers are successfully cultivating tea. Catherine Drummond-Herdman, of Megginch Castle, has a personal connection to tea growing, as her ancestor, Robert Drummond, brought a Camellia bush back to Megginch in 1785. Inspired by this family history, Catherine began growing tea on a larger scale in 2008.
She is now part of Tea Gardens Scotland, a collective of nine women who grow the crop in their gardens and produce Nine Ladies Dancing tea, a black tea sold at Fortnum & Mason. Catherine finds the tea-growing process fascinating and therapeutic, especially after using green tea during her cancer recovery. She describes it as “horticultural therapy” and has found it to be a rewarding journey of discovery.
The journey has not been without challenges, as Catherine lost numerous plants during the harsh winter weather. She has learned the nuances of growing tea, describing the plants as “fussy” and requiring daily attention. With 250 mature plants, 250 young ones, and 500 seeds, Catherine’s two-acre walled garden at Megginch Castle allows visitors to take tours and enjoy tea from family China brought back on The General Elliot. Overall, tea growing in Scotland has become a unique and fulfilling endeavor for Catherine and her fellow growers.