The Tea Gardens of Scotland
The story of an intrepid bunch of plucky tea-ladies
Last September, I had the amazing opportunity to travel around Scotland photographing a group of intrepid women who have taken on the difficult challenge of growing tea in Scotland. The weather was gorgeous as it can be at this time of year and presented none of the challenges that the tea growers usually face. Throughout the week of photoshoots, the collection of portraits built beautifully as I crossed Perthshire, Fife and Angus visiting one plucky tea-lady after the next. On the final day, they all came together at the Scottish Tea Factory for a group picture. This was huge fun but I have to admit that I could have done with a lie down in a dark room by the time I’d managed to get them all arranged in the right places!
Growing tea in a difficult climate
Bringing old walled gardens back to life to protect the plants
When you think of the people who grow tea or where our favourite cuppa comes from, your mind’s eye probably travels across the globe to the remote reaches of Sri Lanka, Assam or South East China.
Well, mine did anyway, until last summer when I received a call from a group calling themselves the Tea Gardens of Scotland.
At this point in their development, they are a seedling of an organization. But, the growers have big ambitions. Ambitions that are demonstrated by their enthusiasm and commitment for the seemingly uphill challenge of growing tea from seed in the difficult Scottish climate.
My brief was to photograph the growers with their young plants and capture a little bit of the character of the people who are prepared to take on such a challenge. I wanted to show the individual personalities in the context of their beautiful, walled gardens and the wider Scottish surroundings they inhabit.
As it turned out, the conditions were glorious and probably not so different from the hill stations of the Himalayas. I had a fascinating week of travelling around Scotland, photographing at some amazing locations and comparing the different methods of each grower. Their individual approaches varied with the soil, prevailing wind, rainfall, aspect and, in one case, the path of the flow of frost!
I drank lots of different cups of delicious Scottish tea on the way and found myself happily falling into the lingo of the tea grower — “The astringency of that one is a bit lively on the tongue, slurp.” Or, “inhale…. the aroma of this one is beautifully fragrant on the nose.”
On the final day of the shoot, we all came together at the Scottish Tea Factory in Comrie, Perthshire. I photographed the entire group together as they talked tea, handled tea, smelled tea and of course, drank tea!
Overall, my time spent on this Tea Gardens of Scotland marketing photography project was fantastic. I took great pleasure in meeting an inspiring group of women who aren’t scared to take on a huge challenge and I wish them all every success as their tea business blossoms and grows.