Guest contribution by: Dan Moser
Although the natural habitat of Camellia sinensis is areas with tropical and subtropical climates, its adaptability has made this plant grow and thrive in very different places.
Today we’ll talk about the cultivation and production of tea in an unexpected area: Spain.
If when you think of Spain warm summers and dry climates come to mind, you are right; but not entirely. The Iberian Peninsula stands out for having a set of very varied climates, in which the heat and dryness of the Mediterranean zone coexists with colder and more humid climates, which are found in the northern fringe touched by the Atlantic Ocean.
It is here where we find Galicia, an area that stands out for its constant rains. To give you an idea of how much it rains, you should know that Galician — the local language — actually has more than 100 different words to name the different types of rain.
In this precise area of Spain, several projects related to the world of tea have been growing in the last few years. Although they still have a limited scope, they are remarkable for trying to bring the cultivation of Camellia sinensis to Southern Europe.
One of them is Orballo, a project that takes its name from the Galician word for ‘fine rain,’ and that is dedicated to growing and producing tea as well as a wide set of aromatic herbs and spices. Nowadays, its tea fields reach 10 acres, an area still small but with high expectations from its owners for the future.
Although Camellia as an ornamental flower has a long history in Galicia, varieties suitable for making tea had not been previously cultivated. Since there is no tea growing tradition or culture in the zone, the project leant on local scientific institutions to asses them in several aspects related to tea cultivation.
With their current limited production, Orballo tries to bring maximum value to their product by making high quality teas. Their first bet was an exclusive white tea which collected good reviews in the local tea scene. Since then, they have expanded their products with green teas.
Due to its limited production, I didn’t have the chance to taste Orballo’s tea myself. In our last interview, the producers said their white tea takes on the singularity of the place and that it has a special and unique character in which the sea is very present.
Orballo is one of the pioneers that brought our beloved Camellia sinensis to these soils. Let’s hope that in the near future we’ll be able to enjoy a zero-mile Spanish tea.
Dan Moser is a tea lover and passionate about the richness of its culture and history. He is the founder of Infusionismo, a blog about the world of tea in Spanish.
Images provided by Orballo and used with permission
Thanks, Dan! I had no idea about this project in Spain but it just proves the point that Camellia sinensis is an amazingly adaptable plant, a fact that many tea drinkers do not appreciate. I’ve written a bit about the adaptability of tea on my blog. Please share the link below if you think it would be appreciated.
I wrote about the first harvest from that project in 2017 back in that year, without that much for additional detail in that, but it does set the timeline: