Welcome to Episode 26 of The REAL Podcast, brought to you as always by REAL Kombucha, purveyors of exquisite, sparkling fermented teas, regularly served as a non-alcoholic alternative to fine wines.
It’s a clear, bright Spring morning where we are, and so you join us at one of the most important times in any tea lover’s calendar: the tea harvest. Kombucha, as you probably know, is fermented tea, and it’s around this time, and during the weeks to follow, that the tea harvests get underway in the Darjeeling and Long Jing regions of India and China.
Later this year, David and the team will do their annual tasting of the year’s harvest, picking the exact teas to order and ferment with over the next 12 months. We choose to use exquisite loose-leaf teas because of the character and quality they exude in flavour through a carefully crafted fermentation – a Long Jing green tea to produce Dry Dragon and first flush from Darjeeling. Both these teas and the regions they come from are steeped in tradition and myth, and their long histories of season and ritual serve as foundations for the vibrant work that they inspire today.
Over the last 20 years or so, tea has undergone an extraordinary renaissance. In the UK, it has evolved from being something associated with a bygone age to something associated with broadening both the palate and the mind. It’s seems like a far cry from monkeys dressed as humans in the tea adverts of the 1980s to the sophistication that tea imbues today. It’s no exaggeration to say that tea is held in similar esteem to wine, with giving the same attention to the terroir, production techniques, soil, rainfall, and the wide, seemingly infinite potential for flavour.
We work with Dragon Well and Darjeeling First Flush everyday, so we thought we’d use this episode of the REAL Podcast to take a virtual trip to the places they come from – a chance to explore some of the tea-harvesting history, expertise and reverence that they bask in. To do so, we’ve invited a truly important tea person to be our guide around the tea harvest regions and traditions.
Jane Pettigrew is one of the world’s foremost experts on tea. Author of 17 books on the subject, she is the winner of the Best Tea Health Advocate and Best Tea Personality awards, Director of Studies at the UK Tea Academy, and recipient of the British Empire Medal for Services to Tea Production and Tea History in the New Years Honours List, 2016.
So, pour yourself a beautiful glass of REAL Kombucha, fasten your seatbelts and settle in for the journey.
Find out more about Jane Pettigrew and the classes she teaches at ukteaacademy.co.uk.
“Whenever you drink tea, you’re connecting yourself to every other country in the world that drinks tea (and that’s pretty much everywhere), but also back through time. 5,000 years, through all the changes that have happened, through all the stories and the connections with different religions and ways of life. There’s something incredibly powerful and moving about the whole thing. You make friends over tea. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the same language. You can sit tasting tea and nodding at each other, smiling and doing thumbs up. You know you’ve got a friend for life.” – Jane Pettigrew, UK Tea Academy