Either from the naturalist in me, the idea of wanting to give it my own try, or maybe just the want for the ultimate freshness, I’ve been looking into growing my own tea plant. After many long hows, however, sadly I’ve realized that making your own tea is much more than growing the leaves and steeping them.
First off, be aware of growing conditions. Tea is hardy to Zone 8, all of you who are botanically inclined probably already know what zone you are in, but if you don’t refer to this chart here. As tea generally grows in hot and humid climates, zone eight is along the southern US into Texas. Now if you don’t happen to live in Zone 8, you can still grow tea inside or in a greenhouse. Tea is also a flowering plant, known to produce gorgeous fragrant flowers.
If you think you have just the spot for a tea plant, it might be good to know it likes light shade and rich acidic soil.
Some types of preparation for picked leaves depending on type are:
- Pick the very young and tender leaves and buds, while insuring there are no drops of water on them. If there are, simply blot them dry with a towel
- Set the the leaves in the shade for several hours
- To produce a long Jing type green tea (dragonwell) you can pan fry them quickly, constantly moving them around. Otherwise, steam the leaves for one minute
- Dry the leaves thoroughly and spread them onto a baking sheet and stick in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 minutes
- Pluck the youngest leaves and buds, and roll them in your hands to damage the cell walls and start the oxidation process
- Spread the leaves out evenly (only one row deep), and let dry in a cool location for 2-3 days
- Dry the tea leaves in the oven at 250 degrees for 20 minutes
After you’ve done all this, simply store your tea leaves in an air tight container to preserve freshness. Oh, I almost forgot the most important part — be sure to enjoy!