Some time ago I purchased my own tea plant, Camellia sinensis from Southern Roots Nursery. I planted my plant with as much care as I knew how, and just before the first frost I made my own cup of tea! I didn't want to waste the handful of small shoots my tree had put out and, of course I was curious. I wondered if my little camellia bush would produce tea.
I don't have any cookbooks that feature recipes on tea growing but I did find some internet guides. Many may realize that tea doesn't come from the tea tree (melaleuca), which can be toxic if ingested in large quantities, but can good for the skin. Black, green and white tea are all made from the Camellia sinensis plant using different processes.
I chose to make green tea since black tea has to be fermented and I didn't think I was up to that. I do like green tea and it seemed easier. The process: Snip off the new shoots and microwave until the shoots become "juicy." Roll in cheesecloth until dry and then heat in a dry skillet for several minutes. Squeeze and repeat this two more times or until the leaves become very dry. Then you have tea.
The handful of leaves that I "harvested" only made one very small pot of tea--enough to make about two cups. I thought the flavor was very much like the green tea I have had in the past and I was kind of impressed with the simplicity of it all. I really like my green tea and hope to make more next year.
The Camellia sinensis is not as showy as the beautiful camellia bushes we are familiar with, here in the south. It is kind of small, with slightly smaller leaves and the blooms are single and small. The leaves are deep green and with the same shiny appearance as other camellias. Actually the bush is kind of small. It is filling out a little and is certainly doing well but this variety is not exceptional for it's blossoms.
I do have seeds that I have harvested from my bush and was kind of surprised when I found them because I read they didn't produce seed until the third year. I am hoping to use them to grow more plants to plant in other places in my landscape. Then I can have my own mini-tea plantation.
I will admit I have purchased Camellia sinensis plants before and wasn't able to sprout the seeds. I hope I will have more success from my own seeds.
I think it's a good start and can't wait to have more tea next year. Maybe more than a pot!