Monday 21 August 2017

All the tea in China? How about a cuppa from your own back garden

Thomas Querney with a tea plant outside his shop Mr Middleton on Mary Street in Dublin. Photo: Tony Gavin
Thomas Querney with a tea plant outside his shop Mr Middleton on Mary Street in Dublin. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

Think of tea fields and most people will picture the lush landscapes of China, Kenya and India.

But Dubliner Thomas Quearney is encouraging gardeners to start cultivating their own mini tea plantations in their back gardens, balconies, or on the corner of their kitchen window sills.

The 59-year-old from Finglas runs Ireland's oldest mail order garden retailer, Mr Middleton, and has introduced the tea plant, Camellia Sinensis, into the Irish market.

Mr Quearney hopes committed tea drinkers will start growing and producing their own tea - in much the same way craft beer drinkers like to brew their own beer.

"People think that tea has to be grown in very hot climates. But this type of tea plant grows in cold, wet and damp weather, which most Irish people are well used to," he said.

Mr Quearney decided to try growing varieties of tea in Ireland after learning there were plantations in Cornwall and Scotland.

Millie Ryan (4), from Tallaght, and Zane Blount Ronan (6), from Raheny, at the launch of the search for the Solus Brightest at Bloom yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Millie Ryan (4), from Tallaght, and Zane Blount Ronan (6), from Raheny, at the launch of the search for the Solus Brightest at Bloom yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney

"It worked. Once you've grown them, you pop the leaves in the oven for 20 minutes to dry out and you can have your own brew of tea.

"I think it will appeal to the snobs in all of us," Mr Quearney laughed.

Plant variety Camellia Japonica grows well in Ireland - rhododendrons are found in abundance in Killarney while azaleas are popular plants in Waterford and the south-east.

Mr Quearney's tea plant Camellia Sinensis is a close relative of the above plants.

"If you can grow rhododendron and azaleas in Ireland, you can grow tea," Mr Quearney said.

He established Mr Middleton in 1977 and sells 600,000 tulip bulbs and 200,000 bluebell bulbs.

He hopes the tea plant, which will be available to buy at this year's Bloom Festival, will prove popular.

He said: "Tea drinking is a big part of the Irish psyche. It is more than a hot drink to go with your biscuit, it is a symbol of hospitality, friendship and camaraderie. When you go to a house or office in Ireland, you are automatically offered a cup of tea - imagine being able to tell your guests that you grew it yourself."

Bloom runs from June 1 to 5 in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

Irish Independent

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