Tea growing is a practice that cultures around the world have been privy to for thousands of years. Even today, millions of people around the world prefer homegrown tea to the one you buy at the store.
There’s a certain elegance to brewing something that you have grown yourself. But how hard is growing tea? Can you do it in the comfort of your own home, especially if you’re a hard-working woman who lives in the city, far from large patches of fertile soil?
In this article, you will learn how to grow tea in your garden. But before we continue, we should note that the article will only contain the basics of growing tea, and we will focus on only one type of tea plant, the Camellia sinensis.
Before the Planting: Details You Must Know
In order to start growing tea, you’ll need to know a few key points:
- Climate conditions
- What soil you’re using
- The gardening space
- Water and drainage
When it comes to the climate, you need to be careful of the extremes. Camellia sinensis is a perennial plant, so it can withstand some drought and some frost.
But if there’s scorching heat or ice-cold temperatures, the plant will not thrive. Now, if you live in cold and dry areas, plan to grow your own tea garden in a container indoors.
The best type of climate for outdoor tea growing is humid, warm, and rainy. Also, make sure that the plant is exposed to partial sunlight and that it has access to shade.
Speaking of rain, your Camellia sinensis seeds will need lots of water to grow. However, too much water can cause root rot. So, make sure your camellia has good drainage for any excess water.
Of course, even the best climate can’t help plants grow if the soil quality is poor. Test your soil for all the necessary nutrients and minerals that promote plant growth.
In addition, the soil you’re using cannot be too firm. It needs to let the excess water drain, so if necessary, add a little gravel, fine grit, or perlite to it.
Finally, there’s the question of space. The best thing about growing tea is that you can literally do it anywhere. A proper container and some soil are everything you need if you prefer indoor cultivation.
In fact, starting off with an indoor garden might be the best way to learn about growing tea before you reroot the plant outdoors.
Where to Buy Tea Plants
It might sound odd, but people often have no idea where they can find a tea plant for sale. After all, it’s not something that we normally buy, like fruits or vegetables.
Nowadays, all you need is a simple Google search and you’ll have thousands of results with tea plant retailers, including Amazon.
However, you need to be careful. Tea growing is quite popular, so there might be frauds out there who sell faulty or dangerous products.
Before you get your seeds or plants, make sure to do your research on the manufacturer. Reputable tea plant farms might have pricey products, but at least you know you’re getting a high-quality product that’s all-natural and safe.
Planting the camellia itself isn’t too hard, but you will need a lot of patience before you can start harvesting it. On average, Camellia sinensis will usually take 3 years to reach maturity. By that point, it will be hard enough to withstand an average winter.
If you want to start the planting process with camellia seeds, you will need to do the following:
- Soak the seeds in water for up to 48 hours to kickstart germination
- Place them in the soil, then put the soil in a warm, sunny position
- Regularly spray the soil with water for up to 6-8 weeks
- When germination starts, transfer the plants into separate pots
- Place the pots in a warm, but shaded position and spray with water regularly
- When the plants reach 20 cm in height, reroot them in a pot that gives them more root space
- Place the new pots in shaded, cool areas and make sure the pot has decent drainage
- If you can, put the plant in the greenhouse during harsh winter weather
After 3 years, the tea plant should be around 1 m in height. The best time of year to start harvesting it is during spring. Healthy plants can provide several yields throughout a single year.
The reason we picked Camellia sinensis as our example is that you can get four different types of tea from it: green, black, oolong, and white. They need to be harvested in different ways, so let’s go over them all quickly.
In order to make green tea, clip the new leaves that grow at the top and spread them out on a sheet in the shade. After they finish drying for a few hours, heat them in a steamer for about a minute.
Next, put them in the oven and dry them at a 250-degree temperature for about 20 minutes. When they start to crumble, they’re ready for use.
Making white tea is similar to green tea, with one key difference. Instead of new leaves, you will need to harvest only the tender growing tips of the plant.
Oolong tea also includes drying new leaves and leaf buds, but the process is a bit different. After harvesting, you let the leaves wilt in the sun for 45 minutes, then dry indoors for a few extra hours. When the leaves turn red and dry up, place them in an oven at 250 degrees and dry them for another 20 minutes.
Making black tea will probably take the longest to do. You will harvest the leaves the same way you do for green tea. However, once you have them, bruise the leaves between your fingers until they fade to a dark color. Then place them in shade and dry them for several days until they are no longer elastic.