An online friend, Alicia Ocha, was recently a part of the first commercial tea harvest and production in Spain. That is, as far as she knows, but I’ve talked to others that work in tea in Spain and they aren’t familiar with any other tea growing there either. Alicia did mention that they are aware of limited numbers of tea plants growing as part of gardens, which did also come up related to a post here about tea growing in Mexico, mentioned in part two.
I don’t plan to cover all the details here, mostly just to share some pictures, and pass on a little of what we already discussed. There is a broad next level of information about what they have been doing that I won’t get to (about cultivars, growing conditions, processing steps, future plans…tasting the tea!), but if someone absolutely needs more details they can check in themselves with Escuela Española del Té. That’s the organization behind the venture. Their Facebook page group description follows (Google Translate’s take on it):
Founded in 2014, the Spanish Tea School is the first Spanish school dedicated to the diffusion of tea culture. Managed by a non-profit cultural association, its objective is to develop training and information of quality and excellence in the world of Spanish tea.
Thai language never translates anywhere near that clearly; it helps that Spanish and English are cousins. These other details are from discussions with Alicia, a trainer at that organization. She’s not really an experienced tea maker, although she has more experience than most people now, with playing a role in one small harvest and production behind her. She passed on some input about a partner in the venture as follows:
For this new adventure, Alicia joined forces with Orballo, a young organic farming company located in Galicia, Spain’s northwestern corner bathed by the Atlantic Ocean. Orballo, meaning dewdrop in the local language, has specialized in growing herbs and medicinal plants. The region is famous for its beautiful parks and gardens full of Camellia japonica and other ornamental varieties defying winter weather with bright colors ranging from pure white to soft pink to dark red. Therefore, it only needed the curiosity and dedication of a group of tea lovers to start the first Spanish tea growing business. Orballo and Alicia teamed up with a Galician agricultural research center and they decided to grow and produce tea from three different plant types, this time only producing white teas from it.
They grew and produced tea from three different plant types. Her understanding is that some cultivar types are especially suited for making white tea, which is why that type is commonly produced in the Fuding area (along with other terroir inputs being suitable). They also chose that style because the processing steps are simpler, and partly due to having access to less processing equipment than experienced commercial tea producers would tend to use (but they are working on developing equipment used and extending processing styles).
Their harvest amounted to 12 kilograms of fresh tea leaves. That’s not a lot of leaves, but it was one early step along the way of organically growing healthy, producing plants and developing processing knowledge and skill. It made for a good chance to check on how much dry, finished tea fresh tea leaves produce, and she said this:
For one type of our kind of white tea from 1 kg fresh you can produce 350 grams of dry; for another cultivar we produced 400 grams of dry tea from 1500 grams of fresh leaves.
I was checking on that for a post about fluoride, trying to convert fresh leaf amounts to dry product, so I checked with a Wuyishan producer on their fresh-leaves-to-dry-tea ratio. Excluding certain variables variables the range for their typical types is an 80 to 90% reduction in weight.
Another interesting part of experimenting with processing relates to also making a compressed version of the white teas, pressed into balls instead of cakes or another shape. Related to pu’er coming in lots of different shapes that part doesn’t seem to matter.
I never did hear a lot of detail about how it tasted. She said one version was sweet and fragrant, so nice, but I didn’t get a full report. As a work in progress I’m sure they learned a lot and have lots of ideas for changes and new experiments next time.