Only after water, Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. For over 5000 years it has played an unique role in history. It has brought people together and ripped people apart. It has made us feel better, think clearer, and comforted us when we needed it and affects us all – in body, mind and spirit. It has successfully been grown in regions all across the globe in both large scale plantations and in back yard gardens.
If you Grow Your Own Tea, it is not only healthier to consume but will be very rewarding to actually produce your own tea. Camellia sinensis or Tea is the ultimate edible plant. It can be grown in almost any location provided you supply it’s basic needs.
Tea – The Edible Camellia
Camellia sinensis is a member of the Camellia family, better known for it’s ornamental flowers that bloom in the fall and spring. But Camellia sinensis is different from it’s more popular cousins that adorn our gardens as it is the only one of the Camellia species that is used for tea because it contains caffeine and other special chemical compounds that give us that calm and refreshed feeling! Other camellias, because of the lack of these special compounds, are not commonly used for tea.
Tea can be grown outdoors in climate zones 7,8,9 and 10. It prefers warm, humid climates with adequate rainfall. In colder climates, of zone 6 and lower, tea can be grown during the dormant season in protected greenhouses, containers or even indoors – and outdoors during flushing season.
Camellia Sinensis prefers well drained soil with organic matter and sufficient nutrients. Soil pH of 5-6 is suitable. For container culture, avoid traditional bagged potting soils with a lot of peat moss that are commonly used for bedding plants and vegetables. They do not drain well and can suffocate the roots. Choose a mix that is organic in nature, has larger and smaller pieces of natural matter – sticks, barks, chips, etc. An orchid potting soil may work well as long as it has a mixture of organic matter.
Compost is an excellent addition to your mix, but make sure that you don’t use so much that you end up with a mucky soil. A little is good while a lot may hold too much water. Remember, no wet feet for tea.
A balanced diet is required for growing Camellia sinensis and organic fertilizers are usually the preferred choice with growers who produce their own tea.
Water – Humidity
Camellia sinensis prefers a humid environment with adequate moisture to not let the plant roots dry out.
Each year, just before spring flush, prune plants heavily. Remove any dead or diseased limbs. Pruning will encourage new growth and lots of branches for a very bushy plant.
Harvest leaves from soft, fresh, new growth that begins in the spring. Don’t harvest older growth. It won’t taste good and removing too many older leaves could damage the plant. Harvesting season will be determined by your climate. The warmer your climate, the longer your harvesting season will be. Typically in zone 8-9, the growing season will be from April-May thru September.
Gene’s Nursery grow and sells Tsubaki Tea™, a unique collection of Camellia sinensis tea plants that have been selected for their superior performance in the garden as both a landscape plant and as an edible.
I have the best job in the world…I get to walk out of my back door and across the yard to a greenhouse and nursery full of Camellias and do what I love every day. Sometimes, when it’s very hot or very cold or when problems arise I do question my career path, but I always come back to the same place….I’m where I’m supposed to be!