OK – I want one of these! And I can, maybe, grow it here!
It’s a Tea Plant – like the drink, TEA! And, no it’s not any of the herbal tisanes (which is what herbal “teas” should be called because they don’t have any actual TEA leaves in them). And yes, the TEA plant is an herb. Confusing, I know, but there you are.
Anyway ---- so, Did You Know …….
All the various types of teas come from this plant, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and subspecies, Camellia sinensis var. assamica. These are the two major varieties grown today to produce green, oolong, black, and white teas. The difference in the flavors is due the way the leaves are processed.
The tea plant is an evergreen tropical shrub. In the fall, it will flower with small white blossoms that have a very sweet scent. If you chose to plant one in the ground, it likes a well-drained, sandy soil in a sunny to part shade location. Remember, it can grow upwards of 10 feet but can also be trimmed (like a hedge) without suffering any problems. Something else - Tea plants require consistent temperatures that range between 65 and 85°. According to the pros, tea plants stop growing when the temperature drops below 55° or rises above 95°. So, the plant should be kept indoors where you can control the temperature. Hmmmmm – not above 95° -- it would have to stay indoors from May to November here. Something to think about. Another yes – the tea plant lends itself well to growing in a pot.
And again, yes, the tea plant is a close relative to the Camellia we all know and love.
OK – so if you want to grow a tea plant to for its leaves, you must have patience because the plant should be 2 – 5 years old before you harvest leaves. Only the young, tender leaves and buds are used for tea and you want your plant large enough to produce the numbers of leaves you need.
Now, growing tea is only part of the process. Once your tea plant is growing well, you'll need to harvest and process your tea leaves. Depending on the type of finished product you want, leaves should be picked spring, summer, or fall and at different times of the day.
So, for Green Tea -
Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds. Blot the leaves dry and let them completely dry in the shade for a few hours. Steam the leaves (like you would vegetables) on your stove for about a minute or roast them in a skillet for 2 minutes. Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and continue to dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
And, for 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.
Or, you can buy loose tea leaves, enjoy having a pretty and unusual plant plus get all the tea bennies without the whole processing thing. I personally don’t care for any of the weird teas (like green or white or oolong). I like black tea and don’t care too much for ground up tea dust in bags – give me leaves please.
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