Tomorrow I shall be joining a few fellow Urban Herbologists in de Hortus Botanicus for a spot of afternoon herb tea tasting. Each week, two of my friends try a different tea using herbs they have freshly harvested from the Hortus – generally clippings. As a guide, they use recipes from an old tea book. Being a one-herb-at-a- time kind of person, I am intrigued to try some of their multi herb brews and wonder what other people prefer to taste in their herb teas. It also makes me wonder about how far packaged tea has moved away from it’s simple origins.
It seems that the tea plant Camellia sinensis prefers to grow at high altitude in tropical conditions although it can thrive at low altitudes and temperate conditions. Many Camellia species are grown in such non-native conditions, for their showy flowers and glossy evergreen leaves. Several Camellias grew in my previous Somerset garden, which was quite sheltered and had acidic soil. They looked amazing in winter. Camellia sinensis will apparently also do well as a balcony pot plant, provided it can be moved indoors during cold periods. There is an informative Wiki page outlining the different cultivars available.
I am now hunting for a small Camellia sinensis plant, or a packet of viable seeds, so that I can try to grow and drink my own Green Tea. I remember seeing a tea plant in the schools section of de Hortus so hope to find one for sale tomorrow. This photo is of one for sale online, in the Netherlands on Speurders.nl, for €3. I’m not too sure if it is the real thing however and wouldn’t like to find out that it’s just a decorative Camellia when I taste the tea…
How to prepare homegrown tea leaves for Green Tea –
(This is taken from About.com as I haven’t tried this yet. The link contains some very useful information including how to make black tea from your own leaves)
- Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds (from a healthy plant which is at least three years old).
- Blot the leaves dry, and let dry in the shade for a few hours.
- Steam the leaves (like you would vegetables) on your stove for about a minute.
- For a different flavour, try roasting them in a skillet for 2 minutes instead of steaming.
- Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
- Store the dried tea leaves in an air-tight container