Terroir isn’t exclusive to wine anymore. In recent years, the concept has been promoted by whisky makers and even gin distillers, sparking debate about whether these spirit producers are just bandying the sexy ‘T’ word as a marketing term.
Avid tea drinkers, however, would make a strong case for terroir in tea. Even a casual observer would notice that tea plantations, like vineyards, are grown at different elevations. Would a single tea type planted at different altitudes yield distinct flavours, much like how a cool climate varietal wine from a hilltop would sing a different tune from its sibling down in the valley?
Indeed, tea and wine have much in common.
“The personality of a tea is determined by environmental factors affecting the juices within the tea leaf, and thereby the flavour, aroma, and texture in tea,” says Dilhan C. Fernando, chief executive officer of Dilmah, a leading tea producer in Sri Lanka and one of the world’s biggest independent tea companies.
“The environmental influences on tea—the characteristics of terroir—are so significant that the light muscatel notes found in Darjeeling tea would be entirely different if the same tea bush were planted, grown and harvested in our Craighead estate,” says Dilhan, adding that climate conditions, quality of sunlight, slope aspect and mineral content in the soil are some of the factors contributing to the terroir in tea.
Applying wine concepts
Founded by Merrill J. Fernando, Dilhan’s father, in 1988, Dilmah was ahead of its time, pioneering the concept of single origin tea when the usual industry practice was to sell teas blended with leaves from other countries. Today, Dilmah and its affiliated companies manage over 12,000 hectares of tea, cinnamon, rubber and ancillary crop farms.
At its very core, Dilmah’s tea cultivation plan is almost a mirror image of a winemaker’s viticulture blueprint—a focus on low-altitude and high-altitude sites. The tea estates are categorised by High Grown, Mid Grown, and Low Grown sites.
According to Dilhan, high-grown teas from Sri Lanka’s Nuwara Eliya region, which sits at an elevation of 1,000m and above, can offer “spectacular brightness” and “notes of lychee, honey and hay”. “The cool climate, extended diurnal temperature range, wind, and soft sunlight enhance the light and bright taste as well as the greenish leaf appearance, golden liquor, and floral aroma in a typical ‘high grown’ Nuwara Eliya tea,” he explains.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
The next-generation is breathing new life into the forgotten art of spice-mixing, peppering the traditional trade with renewed ideas and fresh perspectives.
Sharing Is Caring
Compared to its flagship at Serene Centre, Fat Belly Social at Boon Tat Street is a classier and bolder affair, in more than one sense.
Nutmeg's Role In Singapore's History
From tales of it being used to ward off the plague in mid-1300s Europe to one of the ingredients in dessert, we have all known, tasted, or at least heard of nutmeg. But not many know of the spice’s role in Singapore’s history.
New And Improved
The ever-profound chef-owner Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida finds more room, three to be exact, to express a Ha Ri philosophy at Hashida Singapore’s new location at Amoy Street.
Pairing Spice-Driven Cuisines With Wine
Pairing spice-driven cuisines with wine has long been a challenge but with a little imagination, it doesn’t have to be.
Let Land Grow Wild
Niew Tai-Ran has worn many hats: aeronautical engineering major, investment banker, avid surfer, and, for the last 14 years, winemaker. Discover how this Malaysia-born, Singapore-native is championing the “do-nothing farming” philosophy at his vineyard in Oregon.
The South Asian Misnomer
Incredibly diverse and varied than most know, Indian food is far more intriguing than butter chicken or thosai. Here is a crash course on the extensive cuisine from region to region, recognisable for the seemingly infinite ways of using spices.
Keepers Of The Spice Trade
From its glory days along trade routes to pantry staples all over the world, spices have become so commonplace that we’ve taken them for granted. For these three trailblazers, however, spice is their livelihood and motivation: Langit Collective working with indigenous rural farming communities in Malaysia; IDH’s Sustainable Spice Initiative; and chef Nak’s one-woman mission to share forgotten Khmer cuisine.
Sugar, Spice And Everything Nice
Like food, spices bring vibrancy and variety to alcoholic beverages. Surfacing in unexpected ways on the palate, find everything from cumin to tamarind, cloves to cardamom enriching these drinks.
Building Blocks From The Archipelago
For the smorgasbord of dishes found in Indonesian cuisine, it is a little known secret that the modest bumbu, in all its variants, is the bedrock of such flavourful fare.