Fine wine, fine tea - no difference

Related tags Tea Sri lanka

The different characteristics of grapes and the soil they are grown
in help give wines their character, but according to Sri Lankan
firm Dilmah, the same is true of tea. The company has launched a
new range of teas under the Watte label, each of which has a
distinct flavour and colour.

Consumers are used to wines from single vineyards and the way in which they marketed as premium products. Now, a Sri Lanka-based tea producer, Dilmah, has decided to adopt a similar approach for its new brand, Watte.

Dilmah said that Watte (pronounced 'what-the' and meaning garden in Sinhala, the main language in Sri Lanka) was more significant than just another new line of teas - it was a radically different approach to the whole tea market and designed to appeal to consumers' increasingly sophisticated palates.

The tea is produced at 18 Dilmah tea gardens in four different plantation regions in Sri Lanka, offering pure, authentic tea and retaining the distinct flavour and character of each region.

"Ceylon is recognised by discerning tea drinkers as the home to the world's finest tea. We grow tea from sea level to over 7,000 feet elevation with the flavour, aroma and taste of tea changing almost every 250 feet,"​ said Dilhan C. Fernando, marketing director of Dilmah.

"Sadly, the commoditisation of the tea category in the last 30 years has meant that consumers have not had an opportunity to savour this wonderful variety. Watte changes all that by bringing to supermarket shelves genuine Single Region Tea, garden fresh and individually wrapped in foil."

Tea is similar to wine in that climate, soil and elevation all affect the character of the tea. The tea plant Camellia Sinensis​ is grown at varying altitudes in Ceylon, and it is specially hand picked. It is then withered, rolled, fermented, fired and sorted before being packed.

By following the simple guidelines on each pack concerning the type of water and brewing process, tea drinkers can ensure that the tea is made in such a way as to bring out the best in the drink

The Watte series took the best part of five years in preparation and was the brainchild of Dilmah founder, Merrill J. Fernando. "Watte allows you to choose a tea to suit your taste. When you look at a cup of Watte tea, you will immediately notice the difference in colour. Ran, meaning Golden, is grown at around 6,000 feet elevation in a cool climate and its appearance is light with a wonderful bouquet. On the other hand, Yata, meaning low elevation, is grown in warmer conditions at sea level and is darker in infusion, making it stronger."

The other teas in the range include Ran Watte (meaning Golden Garden) which Fernando claims is the Champagne of the range and which is made from tea grown at the highest point of the island, some 6,000 feet above sea level. It is said to contain "rivulets of flavour that linger and refresh, enliven and delight"​ and has an elegant lemony flavour. It is said to be a perfect accompaniment with petit fours.

Uda Watte (meaning High Garden) is the Pinot Noir of the range and is grown at 4,000-5,000 feet where the crisp, cool air creates a distinctive high grown full bodied, rounded and refreshing blend. It has a creamy richness and layered depth, with an intense aroma, and is ideal with baklava.

Meda Watte (meaning Mid Garden), the Shiraz of the range, is made from plants growing at 2,000-3,000 feet and is a strong, pungent, full-bodied tea which Fernando describes as "grippingly pungent"​. He suggests it as a perfect partner for truffles. Yata Watte (meaning Low Garden), the Cabernet Sauvignon of the range, grows beside the Indian Ocean up to 1,000 feet and is black in appearance. It has plenty of personality, and is dark and creamy in taste, especially when drunk with black forest gateau.

The Watte range of teas was launched on 30 October in Amsterdam, and will become available at speciality and gourmet shops throughout Europe and Australasia over the next few months. The Australian launch is planned for 25 November, with New Zealand set to follow immediately afterwards, and the launch presentations will include input from respected wine experts designed to highlight the similarities between the teas and wine.

As the limited availability of the teas may make them hard to find, the company has set up a website​ allowing consumers to order the teas online.

Related topics R&D Beer & cider

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