Grow Your Own Tea – Camellia Sinensis

What do you picture if someone asked you where tea grows? Is if the warm, humid hillsides of India where bushes are picked by women in brightly coloured Sari’s? Is it the misty hillsides of China where tea was probably first drunk.

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Is it Cornwall or Scotland or in your back garden?

Despite its exotic origins, tea is a camellia plant, Camellia Sinensis and is easy to grow in the UK, especially in those areas with milder winters.

Buy a plant from a reputable supplier, specifically for tea, which will be either Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (China tea) or Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Assam). Don’t try to make tea from any old camellia plant you find in your back garden.

Camellia Sinensis likes a neutral to acid soil or one which is enriched with plenty of  ericaceous compost and is perfect for those who can grow Rhododendrons with ease. If you struggle to grow Rhododendrons then they can be grown in pots with ericaceous compost. You will need to pot on as the plants grow as they become a sizeable shrub.

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The plants can grow up to 3 meters high and wide although, if you are growing them for tea, it is best to keep them to a more manageable 1 – 1.5 meters.  They can be grown in full sun or partial shade.

Keep plants well watered, if in pots, during the summer, although reduce right down during the winter dormant period. Plants grown outside will need generous watering for their first year but after that shouldn’t need to be watered unless in a very dry spell.

They are frost hardy for most UK winters but it is advisable to protect from frost for the first few years. This may be most easily achieved by keeping in pots for their first few years and bringing in to an unheated greenhouse or conservatory over winter.

 

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Harvesting your Tea

Traditionally you would harvest the top two leaves plus bud from each shoot on a mature bush. Try to avoid the temptation to take any harvest for your first two years so the plant can put on plenty of growth. In the UK you will take most of your harvest in the spring and you can store and dry them for use during the year.

Making Tea

Green Tea

  • Green tea has the highest level of anti oxidants and lowest level of caffeine.
  • Pluck leaves, give them a wash and dry and leave to dry in a shady place for three hours
  • Preheat an over to 100 degrees C. Spread the leaves thinly and dry in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Oolong Tea

  • Is half way between green and black tea in terms of caffeine content and anti oxidants.
  • Treat as for green tea but dry in the sun for 45 minutes before moving in to the shade

 

Black Tea

  • Has the highest caffeine content and lowest antioxidant levels although also has the strongest taste.
  • Roll the leaves under a rolling pin until the leaves darken.
  • Dry them indoors for 2-3 days.
  • Preheat an over to 100 degrees C. Spread the leaves thinly and dry in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Suppliers

 

Trehanen Nursery

Tregothan

 

 

 

 

One Comment

  1. Fascinating post, thank you. If I had room in my garden I’d now be very tempted to plant tea.

    Liked by 1 person

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