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Grow Camellia sinensis and Make Your Own Green Tea

I've been drinking green tea for a few years now. Supposedly it has many benefits, especially for one who is trying to lose weight. A while back I read that the tea bags themselves are sometimes made of harmful materials, so I started using loose green tea instead of tea bags. Although I knew that organic foods are best for many reasons, I had never thought to look for organic green tea until Dr. Oz recently mentioned it on his TV show.

Like many health-conscious Americans, we are trying to grow more and more of our own food. There is no way we can know all the contaminants and pesticides that are in the food we buy. That is why many of us are growing our own food and purchasing what we can't grow from other local gardeners that we trust. Each Spring we plant as many vegetables as we can, and we try to grow as much salad and other greens as possible to avoid feeding our family contaminated greens. In the last few years we have planted plum, peach, loquat, meyer lemon, apricot, cherry, and almond trees along with blueberry and pineapple guava bushes and blackberries, raspberries, and currants. 

Awhile back I found a grower for Camellia sinensis, the plant that green tea comes from. Did you know you can grow your own green tea?

Growing the Tea Plant
Camellia sinensis grows well in the Southeastern United States. The Tea Camellia is hardy in USDA Zones 7-9, but can be grown in a greenhouse in colder climates. We had some single digit nights this Winter, and our plants suffered some. We had some leaf loss, but they seem to be getting ready to put on new growth. The Tea Plant needs the same conditions as most other camellias: light shade, well-drained acid soil, and regular water.

Camellia sinensis in September
Flowers appear in early Fall and are lovely little white single blooms with a vivid yellow center. Overall size of Camellia sinensis can vary with the site, but it will eventually attain a height of anywhere between 4 and 8 feet.






Harvesting Your Green Tea
Tea can be harvested as soon as it begins to grow in the Spring. That is March or April for us here in Georgia, depending on how soon Winter leaves us for good. Pick 2 leaves and a bud. Leaves will quickly grow back and you can harvest again in a couple of weeks. 

The only difference between green tea, black tea, and oolong tea is the oxidation process or fermentation of the leaves. Green tea is not oxidized at all. Oolong tea is partially oxidized, and black tea is bruised and allowed to dry until leaves turn completely black. 

Drying Your Green Tea
To prevent oxidation of your green tea, steam the leaves a couple of minutes on the stove top before drying. Then spread out your leaves on a baking sheet and place in a 200-250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Once cooled, the tea leaves can be crushed and placed in an airtight container for storage where they will keep for up to 6 months. 

Brewing Your Green Tea
You will need a tea ball. Put 2 teaspoons of green tea leaves in a tea ball and place that in your cup. Heat water in a kettle. Just when water is about to boil, pour the hot water over tea ball containing your green tea leaves. Let steep for 2 minutes or more. The longer you allow your tea to steep, the stronger it will be. According to Dr. Oz, it's best to steep longer for the most benefits. You can then drink it however you enjoy it most, hot or cold. I like mine sweetened a little.


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