If you love drinking tea and have always wanted to try growing tea plants at home, here is how to get started!
Growing Tea Plants
True tea (white, black, and green) comes from one plant species: Camellia sinensis, hardy in Zones 6 to 9. This plant isn’t finicky (slightly acidic soil, a sunny location and plenty of water will keep it happy), but it grows slowly from seed. It can take three years to get a harvest and cuttings are challenging, so consider purchasing a plant instead. If you don’t have the garden space for camellia, you may already have herbs in your garden, such as mint and lemongrass, that you can use for tisanes, or herbal teas. (Read more: How to Find Your Plant Zone)
Harvesting Tea Plants
How you harvest camellia will determine the kind of tea you brew. Pluck pale gray leaf buds at the start of the growing season for white tea; when bright green leaves appear, pick those for green tea. Wilt plucked leaves for a day for black tea. Whether you pick buds or leaves, dry your harvest in an oven set to a low temperature (230 degrees or less). If using herbs, research which part of the plant is used for making tea, such as the leaves of the mint plant, the buds and flowers of chamomile or the outer stalks of lemongrass. Freshly picked herbs can be brewed right away. You can also dry herbs to keep your cupboard stocked. (Read more: 9 Little-Known Garden Herbs)
Brewing tea all boils down to personal preference. Add about 1 tablespoon of tea blend per person to a kettle of just-boiled water you’ve taken off the heat. Let steep for five to 15 minutes, according to taste. Then, pour the brew through a tea strainer into each cup.
Tea Steeping Tips
- Don’t overfill the kettle. Judge the amount of water you need by how many cups you will serve right away.
- For the best-tasting tea, pour fresh water into the kettle for additional cups.
- Gently tear or crush herbal leaves, buds or roots to release essential oils and boost flavor.
- Try a tea infuser or ball instead of a strainer for a simpler brewing process.
Cups of Inspiration
When it comes to herbal teas, the possibilities are almost endless. Here are a few to try:
- Bee balm
- Lemon verbena
- Rose hip