Women picking tea

A case for tea

How the cuppa came to England

An old wooden box once used to transport delicate plants from tropical countries to the UK has been discovered… in a locked shed.

From bush to jar to cup

The last surviving example of a Wardian Case was designed by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in the 1830s to safely transport plants when there was limited water available.

The case, the first example of flat-pack furniture, was discovered in a locked shed at the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall which is now home to England’s only tea plantation.

The find was one of the inspirations for the Estate’s owner Evelyn Boscawen to take the plunge and invest in creating the plantation on the land near Truro. The Cases were sent abroad as ‘flat packs’ and assembled in the field, filled with soil and plants. The plants were watered, the moisture drawn up through the roots and lost again through the leaves.

Wardian Case
This replica of the first ever Wardian Case discovered in a shed at Tregothnan sits alongside a plot of bushes opened by Prince Philip in 2014

The detachable shading protects from cold weather and allows just enough light in, so the lost moisture evaporates, condenses on the glass, runs back into the soil and keeps it moist.

Bella Percy-Hughes, from the Estate, said: “The cycle repeats itself and the plants thrive which was a major factor in ensuring their survival rate improved. The Estate’s original is now back under lock and key but replicas are available from the Estate.”

Five steps to the perfect cuppa

  1. Add 200ml of freshly boiled water to your tea bag (in a porcelain mug).
  2. Allow the tea bag to brew for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bag.
  4. Add 10ml of milk but if pouring already steeped tea from a pot add milk to the cup first.
  5. Wait 6 minutes before consumption for the cuppa to reach its optimum temperature of 60 degrees centigrade
Gridline Summer 2016 06/05/2016 British Tea Plantation on the Tregothnan Estate near Truro, Cornwall The estate, home to the Boscawen family since 1334 started the UK's first ever tea plantation in 1999.
There are 400,000 Camellia bushes at Tregothnan and all are quite hardy plants despite their love of acidic soil and humidity


Photography by Roy Kilcullen