Processing Your Own Tea

Last week I called the winner of the tea giveaway (although I have yet to hear back from her) so it’s time to talk about what to do with it.

The tea plant camellia sinensis grows up to zone 8 which means it’s well suited for Seattle’s maritime climate. It’s an evergreen shrub with nice foliage so it makes an attractive and highly useful landscaping plant. It wants well drained, slightly acidic soil although I have mine in clay but I’ve made it a little hill to help keep it’s feet out of standing water and it seems to have fared just fine this soggy spring.

To make white tea simply steam the leaves for about 30 minutes then dry them. You can do this in a rice steamer and then dry them on a cookie sheet in an oven that has been preheated to 250 and then turned off for a few hours for a few hours. Repeat heating the oven and turning it off for about 4 cycles.

To make green tea follow the drying instructions but don’t steam them first.

To make black tea you will ferment and then dry the leaves. Put fresh tea leaves in a pan with sides such as a lasagna pan and add water to cover. Leave it out on the counter overnight. According to Judy of Rockridge Orchards you need to “WATCH IT CLOSELY, there’s a fine line between fermenting (bubbly) and rotting (moldy) … very frustrating over night or mid-day to lose that carefully horded batch. If in doubt sooner, not later, is the best call…Once you’re satisfied it’s bubbled long enough (smells alot like black tea), you simply drain off the water, pat as dry as you can get with a paper towel, then follow the oven-drying method.

Now, how to get the winner to collect her tea pot and plant…

7 Responses to Processing Your Own Tea

  1. Hey, thanks! I’ve always wondered how the leaves were processed to get the different types of tea…..

  2. Hi Annett-

    I’ve heard that maybe one might use just the small leaves to make tea? If so, is that mainly done just in the spring when there is lots of growth? Or can you use any size leaf?

  3. Rebecca, you can use any of the leaves. For white tea I think you use the newer small leaves but for other methods you can use any leaves. You just want to let the plant get established before you harvest them all so go easy the first year.

  4. Very interesting! I wish I could grow those kinds of tea here, I grow mint and am drying some now for winter teas.

  5. Um, not to be piggish. If she doesn’t want it I’ll take it. :-)

  6. when can you plant a tea shrub? Can you harvest the leaves throughout the year? Are tea shrubs easy to buy?

  7. Adam you just may get your wish. I’m currently trying to keep it alive in this heat, I’m not very good with things in pots!
    Chip I just planted mine maybe a month ago. I imagine you would want to plant it during some cool, cloudy weather like any transplant. I bought mine from Rockridge Orchards. If you email them they can bring it to any farmer’s market for you that they attend. While you are at it I think you need a yuzu, hardy ginger and black peppercorn bush too. :p

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