Growing your own tea

Our typical tea comes from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, which is an evergreen shrub or small tree native to East and Southeast Asia and India. Tea is mainly cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates that have at least 127cm (50”) of rainfall per year, because the plants prefer a rich and moist growing location. High quality teas are grown at high elevations up to 1500m (4900’); the plants grow slower which enhances flavour. Leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. White tea, green tea, black tea, oolong, yellow tea and dark tea are all from the same plant, however differ in oxidation level. This means the way the leaves are processed determines which tea type you get.  

Some tea plants are hardy to zone 7, but most are zone 9; the good news is that they can be grown indoors. Plant in regular potting soil, water when the soil is dry to the touch and fertilize only during the growing season. Tea plants like high humidity and especially when growing your plant inside during the winter months it is beneficial to have a room humidifier. In summer, protect you plant from baking in direct afternoon sun, especially when you keep it inside. Tea plants prefer a slightly acidic soil; because of watering with hard (alkaline) tap water, the soil can become alkaline over time. To prevent this, you can grow your tea plant outside during the summer months, where it will benefit from the softer rainwater that flushes out the lime that makes the soil alkaline. If you rather keep it inside, you can repot with new soil every year late winter.

The growing season of your tea plant is also harvesting season. Pick young leaves and buds from your plant, however be careful not to pick them all at once. If you have one plant, it will allow you to have a cup of tea now and then as it is a slow grower. For green tea, just put some chopped up leaves and buds into a cup, pour hot water on top and let steep until desired taste. Black tea takes a bit more time as the leaves need to be crushed first; you can do that by rolling them between your hands, then let them dry on a tray in a cool location for a few days and finish off the drying process by putting them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 250F.

There are many other plants that can be used to make tea, including:

Mint – use the leaves; works for digestion and calming.

Passionflower - use the leaves; helps to relax and sleep.

Rose Hips – use buds once the bloom has expired for a boost of Vitamin C.

Lemon Balm or Catnip – use the leaves for a calming effect.

Chamomile – use the flower buds; helps to relax and is great for a sour tummy.

Echinacea – use flower buds; helps with immunity.

Milk Thistle  or Red Clover – use flower buds for detoxification.

Lavender – use the flower buds for a calming effect.

Nettles – use the leaves for detoxification.

Linden – use the flowers; works for digestion and calming.

Lemongrass – use the stalks; works for digestion and calming.

Pine – use the needles; boost of Vitamin A and helps with sore throat, cough and chest congestion.


Happy Gardening and Happy Sipping!


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Guest post by Floortje - Bylands Inventory Coordinator & Social Media Communications

I am originally from the Netherlands, where I worked for a municipal parks department and the promotion organization for the Dutch Nursery Stock Industry. My husband and I are still in the process of building our garden as we didn’t like all the plant decisions the previous owners made. Besides gardening there are a number of renovations going on in our house. Not to forget our dog and three cats, who keep us more than busy!

Sources: Wikipedia, Laidback Gardener, Gardening Know How