1. Food

Growing Tea at Home

You might be surprised at how easy it is.

By

I'm not talking about herbal teas either, but real tea: Camellia sinensis. You don't need a large garden to grow your own tea, a planter on a balcony would work just fine.

The tea shrub is hardy to Zone 8 (The country is broken up into 'zones' with similar temperature and weather patterns. Zone 8 is mid-west to southern USA). If you don't live in these areas, don't fret. You could try growing Camellia sinensis in a greenhouse, or in a pot that you can bring indoors during cold winters.

The Camellia sinensis plant is a small shrub about 1-2 meters in height, though it will grow taller if you don't prune it. In the fall, your tea shrub will flower with small white blossoms that have a delightful scent. These plants are often grown as ornamentals. For planting, Camellia sinensis likes well-drained and sandy soil that is on the acidic side. If you are going to grow your tea in a container, add some sphagnum moss to the potting mix. You'll need some patience, too. Your plant should be around 3 years old before you start harvesting leaves.

You might be able to get seeds at your local nursary, or try online at Seedrack.com.

Growing tea is only half the battle. Once your tea plant is growing well, you'll need to harvest and process your tea leaves. From your plant, you can make black, green or oolong tea.

Green Tea
  • Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  • Blot the leaves dry, and let dry in the shade for a few hours.
  • Steam the leaves (like you would vegetables) on your stove for about a minute.
  • For a different flavour, try roasting them in a skillet for 2 minutes instead of steaming.
  • Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
  • Store the dried tea leaves in an air-tight container
Oolong Tea
  • Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  • Spread them out on a towel under the sun and let them wilt for about 45 minutes.
  • Bring your leaves inside and let them sit at room temperature for a few hours.
  • Make sure to stir the leaves up every hour.
  • The edges of the leaves will start to turn red as they begin to dry.
  • Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
  • Store the dried tea leaves in an air-tight container.
Black Tea
  • Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  • Roll the leaves between your hands, and crush them until the leaves start to darken and turn red.
  • Spread them out on a tray, and leave them in a cool location for 2-3 days.
  • Dry them in the oven at 250F for about 20 minutes.
  • Store in an air-tight container.
Once you get the hang of it, try experimenting with different drying times to get different tastes. Mix your teas with jasmine or hibiscus flowers for a lovely summer tea right from your garden.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.