Most of my life I have been a coffee drinker. But in recent times for some unexplained reason, my palate has changed to tea. My current diet fad (the Sirt diet) encourages drinking green tea. One cup of green tea ticks off one portion out of a 10 weight-losing portions required each day. So whilst visiting the Tweed Valley area, I jumped at a tour of Madura tea plantation to learn all about tea.
We were greeted by the lovely Robyn, our very informative host and tour guide. This was not just any tea plantation.
Madura is an award-winning, Australian owned and leading specialist tea grower, blender and packer.
The estate is close to Murwillumbah in northern New South Wales. The region’s sub-tropical climate and rainfall lends itself naturally to growing tea.
I’LL SEE YOU IN THE MORNING DARLING…
The original owner was Ceylonese M.E.A Grant-Cook and his wife Norma. The couple founded the estate in 1978.
On his passing in 1992, the 250,000 tea bush estate was sold to four Australian families who have run the hugely successful business since.
They pride themselves on being a family business, with 55 staff and many long time workers. Some workers have been with the family for up to 35 years. It’s a commendable achievement in these modern times.
WANT TO GROW YOUR OWN TEA?
The tea bush is actually a camellia. Madura tea comes from two varieties.
The volcanic soil, good rainfall and water from their dam provide excellent conditions with no need for pest control.
The camellia bush produces acorns from which seeds are obtained.
These take 12 months to grow to 30cm and a further two years to mature. After that, with seasonal harvesting and regular fertilising, they can last 120 years.
White tea comes from the top bud on the plant and is only ever hand picked.
The bud is the purest part of the bush with no contaminants, hence its high antioxidant value. But it is usually imported from China due to the need for intensive labour.
Green and black tea is mechanically harvested. They cut the top two leaves and the bud.
Harvesters have a large flat blade that cuts these leaves every 12 to14 days depending on weather conditions.
The leaves are then loaded into a utility and the tray lifted into the factory.
The leaves are then cut and mulched. Green tea goes straight into a drier, whilst black tea is oxidised first, changing colour from green, orange, brown then black, and is then dried for 20 minutes.
Mulched leaves are then sorted through filters to select coarse tea for tea pots or more finely ground tea for tea bags.
The whole process is only 24 hours from harvesting.
Tea is best kept in airtight conditions. If left open to air it naturally absorbs moisture, these properties ideal for removing smells from a closed fridge, for example!
CAFFEINE OR NO CAFFEINE?
Madura tea contains 2.8% caffeine. Decaffeinated tea requires an additional chemical process. But you can make your own by adding boiling water for 20 seconds, then discarding that water and using fresh hot water for your cuppa.
BOILING OR OFF THE BOIL?
The science of drinking weak or a full bodied tea depends on the temperature of the water and how long you infuse the leaves.
Black tea requires boiling water +/- milk. Green tea is best at 85 degree Celsius and white tea at 75 degree Celsius.
Tea bags produce flavour after only three to five minutes but a silk tea bag or pot of tea takes longer to come to its full flavour.
However re-using this tea produces an even stronger flavour.
SINGLE ESTATE OR BLENDED TEA?
‘Single estate tea’ involves using only locally grown tea leaves.
This tea is rare, and its taste will vary from day to day with local daily growing conditions.
Madura tea is 100% blended for consistency. They import from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Their sole master tea blender is Michael who was raised as a child on a tea plantation.
He worked for many years in Papua New Guinea before being discovered by Madura Tea and has been with them ever since.
Michael blends 10 to 20% of Madura tea with other imported tea leaves, according to his highly attuned, sensitive palate.
TEA LEAVES OR HERBAL?
Blended teas include English breakfast or Earl grey with added bergamot oil.
Green teas can be mixed with ginger, papaya or lemon.
Pure herbal teas actually have no tea content. These include the lovely lemon myrtle/lemon grass/ginger tea, or Camomile tea from the camellia flower.
ECO FRIENDLY MADURA
The company prides itself on being green. They have an active recycling program and use their own solar energy in the processing area.
All components of their tea bags and packaging is sourced globally from natural products. The paper tea bag comes from a non-fruiting Fijian banana tree.
The string is German and the Marla tape to close the bags (staples or glue are not used) is Korean.
Sir William Gladstone once said:
“If you are cold, tea will warm you.
If you are heated, it will cool you.
If you are depressed, it will cheer you.
If you are excited, it will calm you”
So do yourself a favour, drop in to Madura Tea Estate. They will welcome you with open arms and are happy to share most of their secrets (without necessarily having to kill you). And you even get a huge goodie bag of tea samples to take home.
Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.
Discover New South Wales
Wollongong is another beautiful destination in NSW. Check out the Sea Cliff Bridge and other amazing attractions.