Saturday, January 16, 2021

Hirts Garden - Tea plant, Large Leaf Camellias Sinensis



I have wanted to get a tea plant for a long time.  I knew I could not grow it outside, because the climate was not right.  I used to think that there was only one place in the lower 48 that grew tea, Charleston, SC, it was started around 774.  Then I did more research and I found a place in Washington State.  In Burlington Washington ( Sakuma Brothers Farms Inc. opened a plantation in 2010) they have 5 acres along with a berry farm.   

But...then later I did some other research and found there are some smaller less known tea growers in the lower US.  Let's pull for those places, lets get some tea plantations going in the lower 48.  https://www.killgreen.io/main/us-grown-tea

Another fun fact- Black Tea, White Tea, Green Tea, Oolong Tea, and Pur-erh Tea all come from the same plant!!  All these teas are made from the Camellias Sinensis.  It just all depends on the when they are picked (white is picked from first buds), how they are dried  (Oolong is produced through a unique process including withering under the strong sun) and the oxidation process (black is more oxidized then the white, green and oolong)

For Christmas I asked for a tea plant and a growing light.  I did lots of research on Amazon to see where was the best place to buy the plant.  After an hour or more I decided on Hirt's Garden.  They had good prices and good reviews.
As I searched to see where they were located...I wondered if my plant my might coming from Charleston or Hawaii.  I was shocked to see that they garden was in Medina- only 30 minutes from me.  I was thrilled to see the garden was so close, so I could actually go there and pick the plant myself.




On my day off I drove over to Hirt's.  I was shown where the tea plants where located and that is where the help ended.  I asked how to know which plant to pick and how to care for it and they said they had no idea. Well, okay,  I was not here for the customer service, I was here for my plant!!!  And I was thrilled to get my plant, I call her Cami.  


There were about 15 large leaf tea plants to pick from....



I spent about 10 minutes looking at all of the tea plants.  I decided to go with one that looked like it had new growth and buds.
I was temped to get one with the flowers already on it, but I thought maybe that wasn't the best way to go....I have no reason behind that though.


When I checked out I asked again about how to care for my plant, she said to ask the lady over there, pointing to the lady who just said she had no idea.  I said she already told me she did not know how to care for the plant. The clerk said to google it or email the company. I decided if no one knew I would google it,




The Basics
Pay special attention to your soil.  Camellias thrive in well-draining soil that is rich in organic nutrients. In our experience, commercial potting soils tend not to drain well enough, though they can easily be amended with sand, perlite, or vermiculite.  Here at the Nursery, we use a simple mixture of aged pine bark chips and compost.
When choosing a container, opt for one that has excellent drainage and is only a few inches larger than the existing pot.  This will help prevent soggy, waterlogged root systems.  Regularly checking the soil,  especially during the summer months, will be crucial.  When the top 1/4" to 1/2" of the soil is dry, it's time to make it rain.
Slow-release fertilizers are a container plant's best friend.  We recommend a single application early in the spring.  This allows for plenty of new growth during the season, but leaves ample time for hardening off before winter weather strikes.
For planting, Camellia sinensis likes well-drained and sandy soil that is on the acidic side. If you are going to grow your tea in a container, add some sphagnum moss to the potting mix. You'll need some patience, too. Your plant should be around 3 years old before you start harvesting leaves. You might be able to get seeds at your local nursery or try online.
The tea plant prefers acidic soil (pH 6 to 6.5)… which is normally the pH of commercial potting mixes. On the other hand, tap and well water in many areas is very hard (alkaline), so over time the soil may tend to become too alkaline. A summer stay outdoors can therefore be helpful, as rainwater is soft and will help dissolve and flush out the lime that causes the problem. If not, repotting annually in late winter into fresh soil will help keep the pH in the right range



After doing some reading, I purchased the supplies below...


I added these drain smart discs to the bottom of the pot to help the water drain. 

Because the pot was so big and the discs were small, I added 3 discs.


I then added rocks to help with the drainage as well.

I added my soil acidifier next.


I then added my fast draining coarse soil to the pot.


I then took my normal potting soil and mixed it all together.

Then I made a hole in the dirt and added my tea plant, Cami.


I then poured some reaming soil on the top.


I then added my grow light.




We will see if I can grow this plant and maybe make a cup of tea.



https://www.thespruceeats.com/growing-tea-at-home-766090

Growing tea is only half the battle. Once your tea plant is growing well, you'll need to harvest and process your tea leaves. From your plant, you can make black, green, or oolong tea.


Harvesting and Processing Tea Leaves:


Green Tea

  1. Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  1. Blot the leaves dry, and let them dry in the shade for a few hours.
  1. Steam the leaves (like you would vegetables) on your stove for about a minute. (For a different flavor, try roasting them in a skillet for 2 minutes instead of steaming.)
  1. Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry them in the oven at 250 F for 20 minutes.
  1. Store the dried tea leaves in an air-tight container
  2. Oolong Tea
  1. Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  1. Spread them out on a towel under the sun and let them wilt for about 45 minutes. This step is called withering.
  1. Bring your leaves inside and let them sit at room temperature for a few hours.
  1. Make sure to stir the leaves up every hour.
  1. The edges of the leaves will start to turn red as they begin to dry.
  1. Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 250 F for 20 minutes.
  1. Store the dried tea leaves in an air-tight container.
  2. Black Tea
  1. Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  1. Roll the leaves between your hands and crush them until the leaves start to darken and turn red.
  1. Spread them out on a tray, and leave them in a cool location for 2 to 3 days. (This is also withering.)
  1. Dry them in the oven at 250 F for about 20 minutes.
  1. Store in an air-tight container.

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