You are sitting at home, dressed in exquisite suit, wearing the traditional English hat, equipped with your monocle, reading a paper and drinking tea. Or at least that’s how people who haven’t met us perceive us in their imagination. And why did I bother describing it? Because foreigners are probably right for one thing – we do, in fact, like drinking tea. We drink tea for breakfast, for lunch, for brunch, for dinner, for brinner, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the year, in the middle of your room.
There’s another thing we like doing though – gardening. As statistic shows Britain’s gardeners are quite a few. So… Chances are you are a gardener and you like the invigorative drink if you’re reading this. And what is better than combining passions? Here I will share with you how to grow your own tea at home. But you will have to deal with drinking it by yourself, because I already grow mine.
Of course, as in all gardening dramas there’s a plot twist. The regular tea Camellia sinensis grows in climate zones 8 or higher. Worry not – that is not much of a twist if you’re reading the book, because we, in Britain, are exactly 8 and above.
Here are some tea basics you need to be familiar with before taking this train:
There are 4 MAIN types of tea – white, green, black and oolong. It is all about the processing.
- White tea has been processed the least. This naturally implies that it is the weakest form the 4 – caffeine amounts in it are very light. People who are afraid of the dark drink those(children).
- Green teas are the next level. They are the “normal” tea. Not too strong, not too weak. They have a mellow refreshing effect on you, but will not give you sleep absence as your coffee would sometimes do. Also they are green in colour.
- Oolong tea – it is considered the healthiest tea of the 4, because the caffeine and antioxidant levels are not extreme but sensible, thanks to the semi-oxidation. If you don’t know what a semi-oxidation is, that’s okay, we are gardeners, not scientists. That does not ultimately exclude scientists from being gardeners.
- Black is the strongest one and only hardcore men with moustaches and chest hair may drink it.
Now that you’re familiar with the colourful naming of the different types of tea it is time for you to become the local tea star by growing it on your own!
Camellia sinensis might be called a pretentious lady, for it requires:
-that is also well drained;
-that also stays moist;
-that is also on a sunny spot;
-of course while being protected by any wind;
-well watered regularly with acidic water;
-all this so 3 years can pass before it starts producing the goods.
But do not give up! Did Superman give up on his dream for a better world? Correct! And neither should you!
Having a nice healthy tea plant in the backyard might be in the same place as living in a better world in one’s value system. They are similar even! Constant access to tea grown in your own backyard with your own organic methods is quite near to what Superman tried to achieve fighting the bad guys. It’s an utopia.
Here’s a pro tip for all the people who kept reading past the Superman part: Soak the seeds of the plant for about a day or so before planting them. Camellia plants like their seeds wet. They require plenty of water throughout the whole growing period.
Another tip: if you would rather growing it indoors instead of your backyard mind this – it needs at least 6 hours of sun, daily. Seeds will ultimately sprout in about a month.
After you get your seeds, grow them for 3 years, name the plant something catchy like Robertea and all that, your green tea factory will reach maturity and it will start leafing out perhaps 1-3 times a year. This for you should be harvesting time. The newer younger leaves is what you harvest for your future tea parties.
Since I know you might be from London, here’s an advice from local experts in gardening: If the region you’re from suffers from a very cold winter, it is acceptable to take the plant inside. Again – make sure you provide it with a nice sunny spot. After the end of the cold season you should help your tea thingie adapt to the outdoors with time. Don’t leave it outside the first warm day, but rather take it out for longer and longer periods of time until you think it is well acclimated to the outside weather conditions.
Fun fact time: Camellia sinensis lives up to a 100 years and grows up to 3 meters! It will thrive if you provide it the space it needs. In case you are an indoors tea grower – keep harvesting the growth every spring on leafing out. This way you will prevent it from taking more space than the pot it lives in.
Last but not least: Herbal Tea & More!
The tea topic won’t be complete if I don’t mention the herbal teas. Herbal tea is the phony cousin of the real tea. They don’t have the caffeine and all that. Still – plenty of reasons to drink them. They possess all sorts of health benefits for you and the thing with herbal tea is you can choose among thousands of different unique flavours. Plus they are ready to be harvested way earlier than 3 years after being sown.
Bonus tea facts:
You can make teas from all kinds of plants and herbs. Hell, there’s even a banana peel tea! In fact, people have made teas of all kinds of shit. Literally there’s a tea made of insects poo that feed specifically on tea leaves. Not only this, but it will cost you $350 to have a sip or two from that.
Or garlic tea. I personally like garlic, but who else than Angelina Jolie would drink that? I know garlic has its health benefits and all but… Crazy famous people.
And what about the “panda tea” which is grown in a very specific fertilizer – panda poop. As we know pandas are not very commonly met in nature so it is understandable 50 grams of it cost more than £2000. Who would know.