In the hub of German viniculture, the Palatinate, Jessica Schönfeld and Christian Weiß grow herbs in an organic-style agricultural way for the production of tea. It is a story of hard work that results in fine scent and amazing taste.
Peppermint perfumes the air. It wafts gently above the grass-green lacquered herb-cutting machine and lurks in an intense form behind the wooden door to the drying chamber. The chamber itself reveals a feast for the senses: scent and rustling of dried leaves, pale-green colour. Christian Weiß built the dryer, a large wooden device for recirculating air, himself, just like he grows and harvests himself the herbs on the field close to Ruppertsberg in the Palatinate.
Together with his wife Jessica, Christian runs the enterprise named after their family name: “Schönfeld – die Tee-Gärtner” (the tea gardeners). They moved to the picturesque Palatinate village in 2015. He comes from close to Cologne and she from Leipzig. They met and fell in love in the Hessian town of Geisenheim, where Jessica studied International Wine Business and Christian Beverage Technology. He had worked as a freelance landscape gardener before. His family had owned a nursery for ornamental plants, “but to work at over 40 degrees Celsius in a greenhouse was not for me.” He was looking “for a chance to enter agriculture, in a niche” instead. Tea made him find it.
Since then, Schönfeld herbs have grown on a good hectare of land in and around Ruppertsberg—a variety of more than 30 sorts, some of them rarely found in Germany, such as lemon verbena, lemon grass or liquorice. “Bloody Hell” is one of their teas, blended with chilli and labelled with a ‘warning’. Another one is called “Casanova” said to “taste of summer” with its lemon grass, thyme and oregano ingredients. “Made with love in Germany” is their slogan: sowing, harvesting and packaging has been done (so far) just by Christian and Jessica, who is also employed part-time in a wine-growing estate.