If you want to grow tea leaves and plant them at home, then you have landed on the right page.
Growing tea leaves at home are not as though as they may look.
Moreover, you will not need a large grander to grow your tea leaves, but a balcony or a planter would do great as well.
Understanding tea plants, their growing requirements, and harvesting their leaves will allow you to enjoy homegrown tea.
You can also use the same plant to make green, oolong, or black tea.
Furthermore, understanding different types of tea that comes from the same plant, can also help you greatly.
Let’s learn more about the tea plant, its types, growth requirements, and more in this guide.
Understanding Tea Leaves and Plants
The common tea plant or Camellia sinensis is a species of flowering plant that produces leaves that make tea.
The tea bush is native to Asia like southern China, though, today you can cultivate it all over the world.
However, it is best grown in regions like India, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Kenya.
Moreover, the leaves from the Camellia sinensis produce oolong tea, black tea, green tea, and white tea, which are four true teas.
While herbal teas like chamomile tea, rooibos is tisanes that you cannot grow from common tea leaves and plants.
You can determine the type of tea that grows from a common tea bush by where and how the tea leaves are grown, the harvesting time, and how long the tea leaves are left to dry or oxidize.
Strong tea like black tea or oolong tea comes from mature tea leaves and oxidizes longer.
While young teas like white tea and green tea come from younger tea leaves that oxidize for less time.
It is important to note that tea plants may take up to three years to mature and produce a harvest.
However, you can grow and care for the tea leaves and plant in your own garden as well.
Since they are native to tropical regions tea plants flourish in warm temperatures, and grow year-round when in warm climates.
Types of Tea Leaves and Plant
The two main types of Camellia sinensis cultivators to make most tea are Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica.
Both these plants produce oolong tea, black tea, green tea, and white tea.
Let’s learn more about these two variants:
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis
This variation of the tea plant produces hardy, small-leafed teas that yield milder flavors of green or white tea.
Camellia sinensis var. assamica
While this variant of the tea produces larger-leafed tea.
Moreover, you can use Assamica bushes to cultivate teas with more robust flavors like oolong or black tea, Assam tea, a black tea in the region of India.
You can grow tea plants in a number of ways. Let’s discuss some of the methods below:
From a Seed
Tea plants from seed take a long and labor-intense process as the tea leaves need to be at least 3 years old before harvesting.
Before you plant the tea seeds in the soil, you will need to germinate and nurture them by soaking and germinating inside a temperature-regulated environment.
Moreover, this method has a fairly low success rate of yielding tea, however, it can pay off if you have plenty of time to cultivate seeds.
Tea from Seedlings
In some cases, ta growers may transplant bare-root tea seedlings from one area of the tea plantation to another when they need a large number of plants.
You can purchase a sprouted tea plant from a nursery, which you can then plant in your garden.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to produce harvestable tea is to propagate cuttings from already established tea bushes than growing them from seeds.
For this purpose, you can use tea bushes by dipping the cuttings in a plant-rooting hormone and replanting them in the soil.
Planting Tea in 7 Steps
In order to grow your tea in your backyard or garden, follow the steps below:
1# Prepare Tea Seeds: You can either find the seeds online or at your local nursery.
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis seeds are the more hardy choice, but assamica will work great if you are living in a tropical climate.
Moreover, you can also cut plants from an existing tea bush to propagate the plant or purchase a plant that is already sprouting.
Thus, if your soil is not in the pH range, you can add pine needles or sulfur to make it more acidic.
3# Soak and Dru out Seeds: If you are planting tea from seeds, make sure to soak them in a bowl for 24 to 48 hours.
After this, drain the seeds and lay them on a towel in sun, keep them moist, and after a day or two, the hull of your seeds should crack, which you can sow.
4# Nurture the Seeds: Place the germinating seeds with their eyes parallel to the surface in a small pot that contains an inch deep soil or vermiculite.
Vermiculite is a brown mineral that helps the seeds to retain moisture.
Moreover, keep the soil or potting mix moist, however, avoid over-watering it, for a few weeks, until the seedlings start to sprout.
5# Plant your Tea: After the process of germination, your tea seedling will be around7 to 8 inches tall and have at least three to four leaves.
In case you intend to keep them in a pot, transfer them to at least six inches deep pot.
However, if you want to plant them outside, you can keep your seedlings about three feet apart.
Furthermore, your planting locations should receive both partial sun and partial shade, at least six hours of sunlight a day.
6# Water your Plant: You need to water your tea leaves and plant regularly, however, they can rot when you overwater them.
Make sure to water them enough to keep the soil moderately moist without soaking the leaves.
7# Allow your Plants to Grow: Though growing tea is a long process and can take two to three years before growing the leaves, it is a worthwhile process.
Harvesting and Processing the Tea Leaves
After your tea plant grows, it is ready to harvest and process.
To harvest tea from your plant, you will need a pair of clean shears to snip away the green leaves.
Moreover, processing the tea includes drying it out for a certain amount of time-related to what kind of tea you are growing.
After this, your tea is ready to drink or store.
Here is how you can harvest and process the four main types of tea that you grow from the Camellia sinensis bush.
You can harvest green tea leaves from the highest part of the plant which receives most of the sun.
After harvesting them, air dry the leaves in a shade for a few hours, then heat them in a frying pan for about 5 minutes.
Then, spread the leaves out on a baking sheet, bake them in your oven at 250 Farhenheit for at least 20 minutes before brewing or storing them.
In the case of black tea, cut the largest, most mature-looking leaves from your bush and roll them between your fingers until they turn dark.
Then, spread them out on a baking sheet in a cool location for at least three days.
Bake the leaves in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes.
Leaves the tea leaves out at room temperature until they take on an even darker, richer color.
These tea leaves are then ready for use or storing.
This one is a delicate tea resulting from minimal processing, which results in a lighter color and flavor profile.
Pick the leaves that are not yet fully open, spread them out on a sheet, and let them wither in the sun for at least one to three days.
Bake them at around 10 degrees Fahrenheit or quickly heat them in a skillet for one to two minutes to stop the oxidation process.
Wait for your leaves to cool before using or storing them.
For oolong ta, choose the largest tea leaves from the tea plant.
Leave them out in the sun for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Then bring them inside so that they can adjust to the room temperature.
There they will rest again for six to ten hours. Stir or shake the leaves every hour to help with the process of oxidations.
Once the aroma is nice and strong, heat them in a pan for a few minutes, or bake them for 20 minutes at 250 degrees Fahrenheit to stop the process of oxidation.
Tips for Growing Tea
Although growing tea is a lengthy process, with the right care and growing conditions you can easily grow them.
Follow the tips to help grow and care for tea leaves and plants.
Keep them Warm
One of the important things about tea plants is that they thrive with a long and warm growing seans, so place them outside in early spring or after the first frost passes.
Ideally, your tea plant needs temperatures of about 70 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the advantage of container growing them is you can bring the pot inside at extreme temperatures.
However, if you are expecting frost, and your tea plant is mature, you may end up losing it if you are unable to dig it up and transfer it indoors.
Add Sphagnum Moss for Indoor Container Growing
Mulch your Plants
Periodically mulching your plant can help to keep weed and pests or diseases at bay while also increasing the quality and yield.
Trim your plant so that they have four to six main branches to maintain its bushy shape. After the first year, switch to light pruning, skiffing, or tipping.
Storing the Dry Leaves
If you want to store the tea for a longer period of time, dry them before storing them in airtight containers.
Protect them from Pests and Diseases
Homemade pepper sprays, insecticidal soaps, or neem oil can help your tea leaves safe from pests like caterpillars, aphids, and mites.
Growing plants is a relaxing hobby and if you are a patient person, then you can grow tea leaves and plants at your home. You do not need large spaces for growing then, your balcony or indoor containers will also do great.
Keep in view the growth requirements and the techniques through which you want to grow tea plants to make sure your plant thrives in the atmosphere and yields better leaves.