At last, my tea life has been made. I have officially tasted three Canadian estate grown teas that Westholme Tea Farm has put so much time and energy into over the past 6 years. This Canadian tea tasting experience was worth the wait. If you haven’t heard about it yet, yes, tea can grow in Canada. There is currently tea growing in Canada and it’s available for anyone to try now. Often times when I chat about Canadian grown tea I find that people are just assuming I mean herbal teas like chamomile. I promise that when I say Canadian grown tea, I mean true tea from the Camellia sinensis plant.
I remember the very first time I spoke to Victor to interview him for my Fresh Cup magazine article. I had told some family and friends that I had this opportunity to highlight Canada’s first tea farm and people were ecstatic, but their enthusiasm was more for me than the actual farm. They didn’t really get it. They didn’t fully understand that the tea plant isn’t really known to grow in the north. They didn’t fully understand that having great success in a country that is known for its cold temperatures and insane amount of snow is in fact a huge deal. Fast forward a year and a half and here I am tasting Canada’s tea creations.
Like many other tastings, I went into the Canadian tea tasting completely open minded. Aside from the few tasting notes other lucky tasters shared with me from their Canadian tea experiences, I didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps tea grown in Canada would taste like maple syrup, poutine, BeaverTails and Nanaimo bars…… Either way, I was ready to finally find out.
Tree Frog Green
First up to the tea tasting line was the tea that Westholme Tea Farm introduced to the world on Canada day. The first true Canadian tea available to the public. This tea is spring harvest green tea that has been hand-plucked, quickly steamed, rolled, wok-fired and baked is known as Tree Frog.
This Canadian green tea has a nice sweet grass aroma that evoke notes of asparagus and maybe even some green beans in the official tasting. Sauteed, buttery asparagus is what came to my mind instantly. The tea finishes off with a gentle citrus bite that smooths out the vegetable vibe.
Tree Frog green tea made for a few satisfying steeps. I would say this green tea was a great one to begin the sharing of Canadian tea as it was an excellent start to my Canadian tea tasting. I wanted to make more of it, but decided it was time to move on to the next tea in line.
Swallow Tale Oolong (Spring Harvest)
Second up, an oolong that was harvested in the spring, withered, rolled, bruised and oxidized before pan roasting. After cooling, it was baked several times and then wok finished. This one is known as Swallow Tale oolong.
This tea opened up with a toasted hay bite and then the Darjeeling similarities began to come out. The leaves gave off some fragrances of hay and wild flowers. But mostly, I was getting a lot of muscat grape notes from both the aroma and flavours. The brisk finish from this tea brought me back to that day I first spoke to Victor. It was early 2015 and there was snow falling outside. Due to the Ontario and B.C. time difference, it was already pitch black outside for me. Yet, I remember starring out the window watching the only thing I could see–snow decorating the yard. At this time Victor was telling me a story about the first time their Canadian tea plants experienced Canada’s snow fall. I recall thinking to myself in that moment “This is it. This is where the story will really get good” because I knew freezing temperatures and snow would be the first thing on people’s minds when they heard about a farm in Canada growing tea. But instead, I was learning that the harsh Canadian snow wasn’t the enemy and that it was more like a friend to the tea plants, insulating and protecting them. I thought about that while I re-steeped the leaves from this oolong until the liquor would be clear. Still getting the Darjeeling characteristics, I also noticed more stone fruits with an earthy overlap at times.
Last tea in the tasting was one I was looking forward to the most. When the Canadian teas were on their way to me I had no idea this one was going to be coming with the other two. In fact, it came with no label, other than the request to not open it until Victor and I had a chat on the phone. I was thrilled to learn that he had provided me with a small sample of their second flush oolong and at the time, it wasn’t available to the public yet (which made it even more special!).
Swallow Tale Oolong (Summer Harvest)
Along with a slightly roasted aroma, the muscat grape followed into this summer harvest oolong. However, what was more prominent for me were the flavours from other fruits, specifically peaches and melon. The mouth feel is rich and even had a slight reminiscence of Keemun black tea for me. Truthfully, I did think there were some extra Canadian flare with this particular tea. The sweet notes from this second flush oolong had me dreaming of real maple syrup. If you’ve ever had maple grilled peaches before, that’s the best way I can describe my true thoughts for this Canadian tea. So delicious!
Going back to the first interview I had with Westholme Tea Farm, Victor and Margit shared their thoughts on the teas they were experimenting with at the time and thought that their most successful flavour profile comes from their Canadian oolongs. This tea confirmed that for me.
Canadian Tea Tasting Verdict
It was a close call, but the Swallow Tale (Summer Harvest) oolong was my favourite of the three. I kind of expected that as I’ve been leaning towards oolongs more and more and I favour second flushes often. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience any stereotypical Canadian foods in my tasting, other than maple syrup. Maybe with an upcoming tea from the farm? 😉
What I did experience though was so much more. I’m super grateful to have had the opportunity to taste the leaves that were six years in the making and each leaf had a different story to tell from their Canadian journey. What is clearly evident within all three teas is the hard work and love that went into making this once thought of plan into a crazy amazing reality. The folks at Westholme Tea Farm are off to an incredible start, and this experience has me quite excited to see what they will come up with next. The Canadian tea future looks bright!
Since I last tasted the three teas Westholme Tea Farm offers, they have released more! Island Green is one, but more recently they have been sharing two teas inspired by the traditional Japanese hojicha and kukicha styles – Quail’s Nest and Quail’s Plume. You can check out those teas and order them directly from the farm here.
You can also enter for a chance to win 25 grams of their fresh single origin, hand plucked Canadian grown tea and their commemorative cup hand crafted by Margit Nellemann by pre-ordering my book Tea-spiration. Interested? Get all the details here!
What type of tea would you be interested in seeing Westholme Tea Farm create next from their Canadian tea leaves? Let me know in the comments below!