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It’s Time For Tea

Growing your own tea isn’t always easy, but it brings about many positive changes when done correctly.

Harvesting tea at home enables you to limit the time and fuel spent on trips to the store and allows you to partake in wasteless consumption, rather than purchasing over-packaged tea.

Teas come in at least six distinctive varieties: black, green, white, yellow, and oolong.

Others “teas”, like rooibos and chamomile, are not made from actual tea leaves but herbs.

All authentic tea leaves come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, with difference in taste and appearance being the result of when and how they are harvested.

Black tea results from tea leaves that are allowed to oxidize longer than other varieties, creating a more robust flavor that holds up for many years.

Lighter teas of more delicate flavor, like green and white, are less oxidized when harvested. This affects the medicinal properties of the tea leaves as well, with white and green teas claiming more health benefits than their darker counterparts.

If you are a novice in growing tea, remember that it takes time and patience. Healthy plants take 2 to 4 years before they are ready for harvesting. Also, one or two tea plants is often not enough to supply a person with daily servings of tea. You should determine the desired amount of tea beforehand, as you will probably need to invest in more plants.

Tea plants are best grown in a zone 8 climate and prefer acidic soils. In the U.S., zone 8 equates to the mid-west and southern climates. If you live outside this zone, you can plant your tea in a greenhouse or use pots instead. Perhaps plant them in a teapot to be certain you’ll remember what it is you’re planting. If planting in pot or other container, be sure to bring the plant inside when temperatures drop. Tea plants should receive plenty of water, but their soil must also be well drained. You may also want to prune your tea plant as it grows to ensure it doesn’t get too tall.

Harvesting tea is a delicate process and must be done by hand. When harvesting, you can either “fine pluck” your leaves or “coarse pluck” your leaves. The latter is a less credible method and for the sake of quality we will focus on “fine plucking” exclusively. Tea leaf harvesting should be done in the morning. To “fine pluck”, you harvest only the bud, second, and third leaves. You should pluck leaves slowly and with a gentle hand. Once leaves are plucked, you can try one of the following methods to determine their variety.

Black Tea – Take the freshly plucked leaves and crush them in your hands until they are dark and red. Now, place leaves on a tray and allow to sit in a cool place for 2-3 days. After they’ve settled, place them in the oven to dry. Heat the oven to 250 degrees (Fahrenheit) and let leaves bake for 20 minutes.

Oolong – Spread freshly plucked leaves among a towel and allow to wilt under the sun. After 45 minutes of sunbathing, bring leaves inside and let them sit at room temperature for a few hours, stirring them up after each hour. As they dry, the leaves will begin to turn red. When they do, place them in the oven to dry at 250 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes.

Green – Take freshly plucked leaves and blot them dry. Place them in the shade to dry for a few hours. Next, steam the leaves on the stove for one minute. After steaming, let leaves dry in the oven, heated to 250 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 20 minutes.

Once leaves are dried, let them cool on the baking sheet and then store in an air-tight container.

Resources
http://coffeetea.about.com/od/preparation/a/growingtea.htm

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