We all love a cup of tea in Ireland, actually we are the biggest drinkers of it in all of Europe would you believe, but what if our tea imports were disrupted by another pandemic or climate change were to cause a collapse in harvests in current tea growing regions. What do we do!?…well we grow our own, yep you heard right!
Tea actually comes from a common plant that grows really well here in Ireland – the Camellia. It’s a popular flowering shrub seen in most gardens here covered in a variety of blousy pink blooms currently. The tea we drink comes mainly from Camellia sinensis, a close relative of the ornamental Camellia japonica.
We have been growing tea for almost 6 years now here in The Garden of Re-Imagination & they look very happy, even surviving icy temperatures of -9degC & lower. Aswell as their lush evergreen foliage, Camellia sinensis form blooms from October on with gorgeous honey scented white flowers.
How to turn leaves into Tea
It’s all down to the processing of the leaves. For black tea or the common brew we love you have to bruise the leaves which starts the oxidisation process & once blackened (see below) allow the leaves to dry until crisp on a sunny windowsill (or dehydrator to ensure really dry & ready for storing in sealed jars). For green tea you skip the bruising process & allow the leaves to dry as they are & keep their green colour!
How to Grow your Own Tea
Hopefully we’ve convinced you to have a go at planting some of your own tea in your garden! Give them the same conditions as any Camellia, moist acidic soil but not waterlogged, not full sun (dappled-shade ideal) & a bit of shelter from wind. Most important of all, once planted do NOT move them, they absolute hate it as we discovered when we changed the location of our tea garden!
Where to source plants
Noah at Deelish Garden Centre usually has a good range of tea plants. My recommended Camellia sinensis to look for are:
- Camellia sinensis ‘large leaf’
- Camellia sinensis ‘small leaf’
- Camellia sinensis ‘kolkhida’
We hope you’ve enjoyed our whistle stop tour of how to grow your tea & drink it!
Why not visit our tea garden & taste a brew of our own ‘Tooreen Tea’ blend on our Afternoon Tea Tour this Summer.
Happy Gardening & Tea drinking 🙂