Heads up, baristas. Coffee is not the only brew on the planet! And if you thought tea only thrived on mist-draped mountain heights in the furthest East, prepare to be amazed. Meet Linda Cebrian-Rampen, tea grower extraordinaire, whose Netherlands plantation could hardly be lower, flatter or closer to home.
Her passion for tea was awakened when her world travels first took her to China. For the first time she realised that there was a whole lot more to tea than a bag and boiling water. She fell in love with the vast variety of flavours, the rituals and ceremony, the fine porcelain vessels and the sheer beauty of Camellia sinsensis flowers.
Linda started her career as a successful designer and illustrator. So when she inherited the family farm and was wondering how she could make it her own rather than sell it, she decided to ‘redesign’ it as a tea business. Six years later, she now grows a range of premium teas, imports teas from hand-picked plantations in China, Taiwan and Korea, runs tea tastings and workshops for cafés and restaurants, and most recently, has been working with Alpro creating a range of fabulous recipes combining teas with other 100% plant-based ingredients.
The possibilities are endless. From sweet and spicy chai lattes to tea-infused alcohols and fascinating tea and herb combinations. More and more people are looking for an alternative to wine with meals that’s a little more ‘grown up’ than sugary cola. Tea, step right up. Linda believes that good leaf teas, with their amazing complexity and depth of flavour, make the perfect accompaniment to meals.
She thinks tea’s all about being experimental and having fun with flavour and is a firm believer in ‘buy and try’. Pairing plant-based with teas can have some surprising outcomes but when you get it right, the results can be delicious. Just enjoy, and let your mouth decide what works and what doesn’t!
So what makes the perfect cup of tea? Naturally, the tea variety and quality. But as tea is over 99% water, you need to get that right to get the most from the leaf. Delicate white and green teas need to be filtered, calcium-free water, while a strong black tea tastes better with unfiltered. She says people are amazed at how the slightest difference in temperature and timing can change the whole taste experience. (Although none of that should be news to all you baristas used to precision pouring.)
Because only the new season leaf tips are used in the best teas, it takes an awful lot of bushes to produce a cupful. Linda feels strongly that we should be prepared to pay the price for good tea, grown in a way that respects and cares for the producers and pickers. “If we don’t pay for it, the workers can’t be paid well.” That’s why she makes it her mission to get to know all of the farmers who supply her business personally and to avoid the large ‘big business’ plantations.
When Linda’s not busy lovingly tending her plants, she’s dancing, drawing or designing, or spending time with her small son. And her own personal fave cuppa? A traditional black leaf tea from India. Served black. (Sorry, plant-based!)
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