Coffee is king in Colombia, but some folks in Colombia are trying to make tea queen. In the supermarkets tea options are skimpy. You will find a lot of herbal tea bags and maybe, if you’re lucky, one lone box of green tea. During a month of travel I witnessed “tea” drinking only once and that was a lemongrass and mint infusion.
So, why start a tea farm in coffee country?
In 1946, the government of Colombia wanted to diversify agriculture and received the first tea plants. The mile high elevation, with its rapidly changing weather and naturally rich soil, made the Llanos family’s land ideal for tea. At first, the Llanos wanted to begin the tried and true path to success through coffee cultivation but one of the Llano sons pushed for tea. He had lived in England and developed a taste for tea.
Over the past 55 years the company has slowly carved out a foothold in the Colombian market with herbal tea bags and recently has broken into the domestic and international scene with fine loose leaf varieties (Cloud Forest Green, Andean Princess Black).
We got to see the present day operations with a new state-of-the-art tea processing facility with plenty of space for expansion. In our minds, their future is secure because one thing is abundantly clear, the tea tastes good and stands up next to its Eastern counterparts. But they have a lot of work to do by way of shifting the collective tea drinkers’ consciousness from the old world heavyweights of China, India, Japan. If Chile and Argentina could establish an independent wine culture from their European forebearers, then why not Colombian tea?
Selling this tea in Missoula, Montana shows we recommend its flavor profile – it’s a good tea! – but it’s more than that. After experiencing the culture and community that supports it, standing behind this farm tucked away in the Colombian cloud forest is our pleasure.
Written by Christina Bovinette