This year's summer tea harvest is over. Now we're getting ready to start planting again! Never a dull moment...
So - Part 1, Why grow your own tea?
Because you can
For a variety of historical and economical reasons, tea farming never took hold in the US. But that is beginning to change, not from the top-down, but from the backyard up! Once you grow your own, you'll never want to go back. Even if you don't produce a huge crop to supply all your own drinking needs, making your own tea provides a new appreciation for fine tea and the artisan tea crafters worldwide.
It's (relatively) easy
Camellia sinensis, the tea plant, grows wherever ornamental camellias grow, throughout much of the southeast, south, and west coast of the US. They do best in well-drained, acidic soil, and can flourish both in the sun and partial shade. Once the tea plants are established in 3-5 years, they require minimal upkeep. Depending on climate and especially when they are first starting, tea plants may be happier to have a drip-line. If you harvest a lot, then adding a nitrogen fertilizer is a good idea. Pruning may eventually be needed, unless you want to climb a ladder to pick (tea plants can grow into small trees). But otherwise, no major digging, tilling, pesticides, or other upkeep required.
Christine Parks, co-owner of Camellia Forest Tea Gardens, enjoys the creative process of taking tea from garden to cup.