Growing Tea Plants at Home: How to Create Your Own Tea Garden

People talk all the time about how there’s nothing quite like growing, harvesting, and eating your own food.

But what about growing, harvesting, and drinking your own tea?

For devoted tea drinkers, growing a tea at home is the pinnacle of success. Yes, it takes years to complete the entire process, from planting your first seedling to harvesting and preparing your tea leaves, but with a little patience and a lot of practice, you can end up the with a bounteous supply of delicious tea you can be proud of for your own drinking pleasure and to share with friends!

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What Is the Process of Growing Tea?

What Is the Process of Growing Tea

The first step, of course, is to grow your tea leaves. As Red Blossom Tea Company notes, all true tea leaves come from the same plant, the Camellia sinensis. The trick lies in how the plant is grown, harvested, and prepared.

The points of variation, and there are many, are what will determine the different flavors of the finished tea product. Premium leaves are plucked by hand, which will make your tea leaves premium. Mass producers harvest their leaves by machine.

Caring for your tea plant could include measures like installing shade canopies over the growing tea leaves to protect them from the harshest of the sun’s rays or planting in rockier or less rocky soil.

Once you’ve grown your tea, you will need to “wither it.” Withering your tea leaves is when you lay them out and allow them to wilt.

Next, you will need to bruise your tea leaves, which involves rolling and crushing them. Evenly bruised tea leaves create a consistent batch of tea. Note that you will only bruise tea leaves intended for black or oolong teas, which are also the only teas that require oxidation, which merely means leaving the leaves out to turn brown, an enzymatic reaction the bruised leaves have to the open air.

Then, for all tea leaves except black tea, you will need to heat the leaf, a process called “fixing,” which preserves what green still remains in the tea leaves.

And finally, you will dry out your leaves, a gentle process that allows you to avoid flavor changes of the tea.

Now your tea is ready to brew and steep!

What Conditions Would Need to Be Replicated to Grow Tea at Home?

What Conditions Would Need to Be Replicated to Grow Tea at Home

While all the steps above will need to be replicated at home to make your own tea, you will be able to make variations of your own as you do not have to worry about shipping your leaves to market. Plus, you won’t likely have access to the mass production machinery required for that level of marketing.

Your first step is to purchase your tea seeds. Because it takes so long to germinate a plant from a seed, you’re better off starting your plants from seedlings or cuttings.

Next, prepare your soil according to your desired flavor, rocky (in rocky ground), versus not rocky (likely above ground in a planter). Either way, make sure your soil has plenty of opportunity to drain. You don’t want root rot.

Plant your seedlings to allow for enough space between each plant.

If you are starting with seeds, you will need to make your own seedlings before planting, so be sure to soak your seeds in a bowl then lay them out on a towel to dry in the sun.

Nurture your seeds until they sprout. This MasterClass provides detailed instructions.

When you plant your seedlings, be sure they have partial sun and partial shade, water your baby plants every day, and allow them time to grow. It can take up to three years for tea plants to be fully grown.

If you are making black or oolong tea, remember your bruising and oxidation steps. For green or white teas, your harvesting and processing steps will be very similar.

What Equipment Would Be Needed?

What Equipment Would Be Needed

In terms of absolutely essential equipment, you will need the following:

  • Pots for your plants if you are growing them from seed in soil without rocks.
  • Tea seeds. You can browse a variety of options on the internet to find good quality seeds to begin with.
  • Soil; choose food grade soil if you are planting above ground.
  • Watering can.
  • Bowl, for soaking your seeds.
  • Towel, for drying your seeds out.
  • Shears, for harvesting.
  • Frying pan and baking sheet, for variations on hand-drying your leaves.
  • Oven for drying your leaves.

How Long Would It Take for the Plants to Grow?

How Long Would It Take for the Plants to Grow

It will typically take around three years for your plants to grow to full maturity. The shrubs need to reach around 3 feet in height to be hardy enough to survive the winter, so you may want to bring your plants indoors while they are still young and vulnerable if you live in a particularly cold region.

Sometimes, you can get away with harvesting after two years, but you are almost always better off just waiting the extra year. Once your tea plant has grown to full maturity, however, you will have a continual harvest for many years to come.

How Would You Harvest and Process the Tea to Make a Great Cuppa?

How Would You Harvest and Process the Tea to Make a Great Cuppa

To decide when to harvest your tea, you will have to choose between green, white, black, or oolong tea.

Green tea must be harvested from the highest part of the plant. Once you harvest your leaves, air dry them then heat them in a frying pan for around five minutes. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

For black tea, you will need to cut the largest leaves and roll them between your fingers for bruising. Next, spread them on a baking sheet to cool and oxidize for three days. Finally, bake your leaves at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

White tea requires you to find and pick leaves that have not opened yet then spread them on a sheet to lay in the sun for one to three days. Next, you only need to heat them in a skillet for about two minutes.

Oolong tea, like black tea, requires you to choose the largest leaves and then lay them out in the sun for an hour. Next, bring them inside for six to 10 hours, shaking your leaves every hour or so and finally baking them for 20 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ultimately, making your own tea is not difficult or even labor intensive. It is a practice in gentle gardening that can benefit you in many ways.

I hope you enjoyed this article on how to make tea, how to harvest tea, and how to process tea. I would love to hear any tips you have, or any questions, about making your own tea at home!

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