New Tea Varietal Cultivated in the Netherlands

ZUNDERT, The Netherlands

Johan Jansen (Photo courtesy of Special Plant Zundert)

Camelliasinensis Hardy SPZ is a new plant variety that produces green teas of high quality, isideally suited to local conditions and is noted for its beautiful appearance.It is an excellent base for home adoption. Within its first two years ofproduction, it has won several international prizes, including the Gourmet d’Orprize in France.

Like all fine teas, you would assume it grows in a terroir of high mountain slopes, with subtropical rains and plenty of sun. In fact, it thrives in a country whose mountains gently rise to 322 meters, a little more than 1,000 feet. It is bred to thrive in temperatures as low as -20° Celsius; below 0° Fahrenheit – close to 40° below freezing point.

The SPZstands for Special Plant Zundert, the name of the specialty nursery in Zundertin the Netherlands that developed the variety over an eight-year period and hasbeen selling it for two as Tea By You. It’s an appropriate name. Johan Jansen, Zundert’sowner and the ingenuity, panache and business smarts driving TeaBy Me, alsomerits the honorific tea master. He explains how he targeted his new plants asDYI – Do It Yourself: grow and craft your own tea, make your own blends, be agrower in your garden or house.  

Johan Jansen (Photo courtesy of Special Plant Zundert)

Jansenhas been an avid tea drinker for many years. He spent six months in China,which turned his love into an ambition: to be the first to grow camelliasinsensis as a local tea that would be self-sustaining in the climate ofWestern Europe. (There are several compatible ventures further north, inScotland, but these are targeted to professional farming and requite complexinfrastructures, like heat lamps and X-ray soil monitoring). He obtained plantsfrom Japan, which accounts for the sencha hints that several reviewers havenoted in the tea. His team evolved them to meet the firm’s goal: “Let’s maketea local.” Commentators confirm Johan’s statement that no one before hassucceeded in creating a European camellia sinensis.

He builtand expanded his specialty nursery in Zundert. This is a beautiful part of thesouthern Netherlands, close to the Belgian border. It is the birthplace ofVincent Van Gogh. It accounts for 10 percent of Dutch nursery production,including strawberries, hedging plants and field-grown young trees. Its annual flowerparade is the oldest in Europe and the largest in the world.

(Photo courtesy of Special Plant Zundert)

SpecialtyPlant Zundert is embedded in that nursery tradition. The firm is small butleveraged by automation and best practice packaging. It lacks distribution buthas a growing reputation and base of customers. How extensively and quickly itcan leverage this is obviously an open question, as for any small innovatorlooking to build an international online presence.

It seemsto have an experiential dimension that differentiates it and that fits wellinto many of the emerging trends in tea innovation;

Theproduct is striking and evocative:The firm was a big hit at the 2018 Great British Tea Festival, where attendeesmade their own tea using the two leaves and a bud traditional method. The wokis as much part of Tea By Me as the plant in its pot. The plant is of thequality that fine teas are made of and methods available for them to apply, forfun, curiosity or more serious investigation. That seems to be a unique featurethat goes beyond the ornamental.

Mosttea drinkers have never seen a tea bush: Tea tourism is a substantial growth segmentin Darjeeling, Assam, Sri Lanka, Nagasaki, Dooars and other tea growingregions, often making use of old residences that can be turned into appealingold-world bed and breakfasts. It’s a truism that Millennials and the lesseasily labeled generations following them want to know more about their foods, authenticity,wellness, safety. Tea By Me offers a tangible and inexpensive small extra inmaking tea more real.

Themajor trends in tea are towards variety and new flavors, with botanicals coreto innovation. Fiveyears ago, cheese tea, bubble tea, kombucha and matcha-infused everything werenot the drivers of any main market. The popularity of turmeric, peaflower, Andeanherbs, chamomile, lavender and so many other spices and herbs are replacingartificial and chemical flavorings. Tea By Me captures this new “tea-ness” intangible form, more so than even the fanciest tin of tea bags or glancing at aspoonful of even the finest Darjeeling first flush dry leaf.

Greentea is a smaller part of the global market than is generally assumed but getsmost headlines for itsconnotations for being more natural, organic and packed with wellnessproperties. Tea By Me offers you your own green tea plant.

Sources:Johan Jansen. Tea By Me, Tea Chronicles, Dutch TV media