First and foremost… TEA LOVE TALK SCHEDULED!
On Saturday, February 28th, I will be speaking at the Ladies Fellowship Tea for my sister-in-law’s church. This will be starting at noon and I will go over all my tea basics, as well as bring a sampling for all of you to try. Try and make it!
Now, onto tea…
Let me tell you, I am fortunate to have a guy that not only allows me to have my obsessive tea habits, he feeds into it and even engages in them himself!
So, for Valentine’s Day weekend that is coming up, I am going to talk about a gift he bought me in January – a tea plant!
Now, I am definitely not the best when it comes to plant care. Give me an animal, a human even (just babysitting though), I can coddle it, pet it, feed it, clothe it, and make it feel like the pretty prince/princess it is. A plant? They cower in fear, seemingly sentient to the fact that I have caused the death of many of their plant brethren since the day I was born. I have killed air plants, succulents, hardy mums – you name it, it probably perished by my hand at some point in 26 years.
So, needless to say, when Camilo came over to me and put this pot in my hand, I was a little nervous. How on Earth would I be able to keep this treasure alive? A true love hobby given to me by a true love – if I allow it to die, both he and I would be heart-broken.
So thankfully, while I have a black thumb, my father has an amazing green one, growing bountiful gardens every year and ensuring all the plant life that my family and I have accumulated over the years (what can I say? I see a pretty plant, I still want to at least try to grow it!) stay green. In the meantime, this has also allowed me to look up how to even care for this plant to ensure that i can one day make a proper brew out of it (PS – popping off some leaves and throwing them in a mug, while it does work, does not produce the greatest of tea. I will look into processing the leaves another day when I have a bit more time).
Important things to note –
Tea plants are all from the Camellia genus, which is resilient and adaptable.
I know that when I first got the plant, all I could think of was, Whelp, there’s another plant to throw in the compost heap in the backyard. Did I want to? Of course not! Did I think I would have to? Admittedly, with my luck, I kind of assumed that all my plants would make it there eventually. It is comforting to know, though, that it is resilient, so it won’t die within my first week of owning it.
Buy Camellia sinensis, not Camellia assamica.
The Camellia sinensis, which is this plant, is the Chinese variety that one can grow tea in hardy environments. The Camellia assamica, however, is the Indian variety. While you can produce tea still, this one is not as adaptable to the cold. Tea bushes are best in zone 7 climates (mostly in Southeastern states), but you can grow them indoors or in greenhouses to protect against the winter. As you can probably tell by my couch in the background of this picture, that is exactly what I am doing.
Acidic soil is great, but the plants aren’t picky.
My family has in our backyard a blueberry bush. That thing adores acidic soil. I was ready to possibly dig up some soil from around there, but then I found out that it is OK to just grow the plant in the same soil that I would for the vegetable garden. This is positive news, given that if you told me to measure the pH balance of the soil, I would make a deer in the headlights look intelligent and all-knowing.
Sun or shade is good, so long as they’re not competing.
Your plant won’t grow as strong if it’s trying to get sunlight.
Be careful of too much water!
This is a mistake that I was making initially. I keep forgetting – tea plants are used to drought-prone environments and survive dry summers. I was watering mine regularly, which caused a lot of the leaves to fall almost immediately and turn. I have been leaving it alone and I can hear my plant yelling, Thank you!
Wait two years for making a good amount of tea.
To make a reasonable amount of tea, wait two years. To regularly harvest, wait five years.
So, it sounds like I have a little waiting to do. For now though, I think I can wait on my tea by going into the stash that I have piling up on my kitchen cabinet.
Hope everyone has a happy Valentine’s Day!