Growing tea in the UK
Tea, honey, floristry, holiday cottages, trademarked fruit – investing in alternative opportunities means Tregothnan Estate continues to prosper.
To continue to prosper and run sustainable estates, many farmers look to diversify, supplement or replace traditional crops and livestock with new revenue streams.
British tea goes to China
The Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall has done just that. It’s home to a large botanical garden and nursery, and had been looking to diversify to increase its output. Jonathon Jones, MD of Trading, joined the estate in 1996 and identified that the local climate, soil and weather provided a unique opportunity to grow tea. The first Tregothanan Estate tea was grown in 1999 and, on its twentieth anniversary, the estate is proud to be Europe’s fastest growing tea garden, exporting as far as China. “It’s exciting to be creating something that hasn’t traditionally been a part of the estate,” Jonathon says. “Tea was one way of diversifying to create new revenue.” As well as growing and selling the leaves, the tea gardens are also an opportunity to create a new type of customer experience. “We run it much like an estate in Darjeeling – guests can come in, have a tasting, visit the gardens and see first-hand how we’re growing tea in Cornwall. It’s an added attraction to the business, along with our gardens and the nursery.”
Diversifying for long-term sustainability
While tea provides the main revenue, the estate also makes its own honey, runs a floristry business and hosts holiday cottages. It even grows the world’s first trademarked fruit, the kea plum, which can only be grown on 20 acres of their own land to protect it from overharvesting. “While the businesses we run may be new, the idea of a self-sustaining estate is not – that’s how things have always been done. The difference is, what might once have generated enough income now needs to be supplemented by other areas.”
As Tregothnan looks to the future, it’s also trialling robots that will help it to farm its tea plantations more productively. While tea may seem an unusual choice of crop for the UK, it underlines Jonathon’s approach to diversifying and goes to show how thinking differently can generate success.
“When we were looking for alternatives, we considered our strengths – our location, the local climate and our soil. We get warm summers and mild winters, with a degree of humidity. Once we had identified our assets, we were able to decide what opportunity we should explore further. We’ve applied that principle to everything we’ve done since.”
If you're looking to diversify your farming business, contact one of our Agricultural Area Managers today to see how we can help.