Many people love to start their days off with a hot cup of tea or relax with their favorite tea as an afternoon break or to wind down before bed. A wide variety of teas can be found in supermarkets, health food stores, and online, including Seagate’s popular Olive Leaf Mint Tea.
But have you ever though about turning your love for tea into a hobby and growing your own tea leaves at home? Here are some tips for making your own homegrown tea with a DIY approach.
Growing Tea Plants
Most tea comes from camellia sinensis var. sinensis and camellia sinensis var. assamica, both of which produce black, white, green, and oolong tea. Sinensis seeds are hardier, while assamica seeds work best in tropical climates.
You can grow tea from seeds, but this takes some patience because tea leaves need to be about three years old before they are harvested. Another option is to grow tea from seedlings that are purchased from a plant nursery. But the quickest way to grow tea is from cuttings, which involves taking portions of tea plants from established bushes and then replanting them.
Steps for Growing Tea
Once you decide whether to start with seeds, seedlings, or cuttings, you’ll need to prepare your soil so that it is acidic, sandy, and has a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Seeds need to be soaked and dried out before being planted, and soil should be kept moist but not too wet until the seedlings begin to sprout. Tea plants can be placed indoors or outdoors, but they should get at least six hours of sunlight per day and partial shade during other times of the day.
Harvesting Tea Plants
Once the tea leaves are ready to harvest, you’ll need to dry out the leaves based on the type of tea you’re trying to grow. For black tea, cut off the most mature leaves from the plant and roll them between your fingers until they become dark. For green tea, harvest leaves from the part of the plant that has received the most sun. If you want oolong tea, pick off the largest leaves from the plant and put them in the sun for about an hour before bringing them indoors for about 10 hours at room temperature before processing. White tea requires minimal processing and is best when you pick leaves that have not yet fully opened.
Processing Tea Leaves
After picking off the ideal leaves for the type of tea you want, you’ll need a baking sheet and an oven to dry them out. The different types of tea have slightly different baking requirements, but the general rule is about 20 minutes at 250 degrees in the oven. After baking, store tea leaves in an air-tight container to maintain freshness.
Why Grow Your Own Tea?
Growing your own tea can be a fun hobby for tea enthusiasts and also a great way to know exactly where your tea comes from and what’s in it. Each pound of raw tea leaves will yield about one-fifth of a pound of tea, but you may be able to get more from your plants as you get more gardening experience. Growing tea is a lesson in patience but also a way to guarantee freshness and to have more control over what you put in your body. With enough dedication, it could even turn into a side business or unique gifts for friends and family! To get started, talk to your local nursery staff about the climate where you live, how much space you have at home to grow tea plants, and natural pest control and fertilizing strategies that you can use.