Growing and harvesting tea leaves and making your own, homemade tea can lead to amazing health benefits, and can also get you more in touch with nature. However, harvesting tea leaves requires a lot of patience and can be a bit of a challenge. Are you up for it?
All You Need to Know About Growing Camellia Sinensis
The camellia sinensis, also known as the tea plant, is the basis of all black and green teas. These are usually the strongest teas.
The tea plant is a flowering plant that grows little white flowers in the fall that have a strong, sweet scent. It’s the leaves of the plant that are important, though. The leaves can be harvested once the plant has grown for at least 3 years.
The tea plant is a shrub that can grow to about 30 feet tall if you don’t prune it. It is a hardy plant that can grow in many different climates, but needs about 4-5 months per year of hot, humid weather. The tea plant also needs plenty of water. So, unless it rains, make sure to water your plants thoroughly every day.
If you’re planting your tea plant in a container, you’ll need a container at least 5-gallons big. Use a sandy, acidic soil and place the pot somewhere it will get at least 6 hours of indirect sunlight per day. You may also benefit from using acidic fertilizers.
If you’re planting your tea plant in the ground, you’ll need to give it at least 2 feet of space all around it.
Using the Tea Leaves
The best homemade tea is made from the youngest leaves of the tea plant. So, harvest your tea leaves when they are fresh and new. Making black and green tea requires different tea leave preparation. Let’s begin with black tea.
How to Make Black Tea
Black tea can reduce risk of heart attack and heart disease, as well as diabetes. It can reduce your blood pressure, and risk of stroke, and can even reduce the risk of cancer. Black tea also contains caffeine, and is a good alternative to morning coffee.
Step 1 – Crush the tea leaves. When making black tea from your own tea plant, harvest young leaves. Press and crush them until they turn a dark color, and then let them rest in a cool place for at least 3 hours.
Step 2 – Dry out the leaves. You can easily do this in the oven. Set the oven to 250 F and dry out the leaves for 15-20 minutes.
Step 3 – To make the tea, bring a cup of water to boil on the stove. Then, take the water off the heat and add in the tea leaves. You’ll need 1 teaspoon of leaves per 1 cup of water.
Step 4 – Let the tea steep. Cover the tea and let it sit for 3 minutes. Then, taste. For stronger tea, let it steep longer. For weaker tea, pour in more water.
To make your tea a little more interesting, you can add in a squirt of lemon juice and/or honey, as well as a bit of grated ginger.
If you choose not to use home-grown tea leaves, simply purchase the leaves and begin your tea-making at step 3.
How to Make Green Tea
Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks in the world, as it contains an extremely high amount of antioxidants. It can help prevent obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, and is anti-inflammatory, too. Green tea also contains caffeine, though not as much as black tea does.
Step 1 – Dry the leaves. Harvest young leaves and let them dry in the shade for about 3 hours.
Step 2 – Steam the leaves. Place the leaves into a steamer on the stove and steam the leaves for a minute.
Step 3 – Dry out the leaves. Set the oven to 250 F and put the leaves on a tray. Let the leaves dry out in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
Step 4 – To make the tea, heat up some water to 180 F, then take the water off the stove. In another pot or container, put 1 teaspoon of tea leaves per 1 cup of water, then pour the water on top of the leaves.
Step 5 – Let the tea steep. Cover the tea and let it sit for 1 minute, then taste. For stronger tea, let it steep longer. For weaker tea, add more water.
If you choose to buy tea leaves instead, simply start at step 4.
Purchasing Tea Leaves
For those of us who don’t have the ability – or patience – to grow our own tea leaves, there are many purchasing options available. Finding plain camellia sinensis leaves for sale can be tricky, so try these instead.
To make black tea, buy dried Earl Grey leaves. Earl Grey tea is a type of black tea. So, earl grey leaves will work just fine.
Ahmad Tea London is an established tea company used all around the world. There are few teas that can compare. Plus, it’s sold at a very reasonable price.
To make green tea, use prepared green tea leaves. Pantenger is a Japanese tea company that produces non-GMO, organic teas.
How to Make Herbal Tea
Making herbal tea can be a much more creative process than making tea from tea leaves. With herbal teas, you have more room for experimentation. Homemade herbal teas also offer a wider range of flavors than other teas.
If you like experimenting with flavors and creating your own recipes, then making herbal teas is a great project for you.
Herbal Tea – Step-By-Step
Making any herbal tea will require the same steps. So, follow these steps to make whatever herbal tea your taste buds desire.
Step 1 – Gather your ingredients. You’ll need 2 tablespoons of dried herbs per 1 cup of water.
Step 2 – Steep the tea. In a container, add in the herbs, then pour just-boiling water over them. Let your tea steep for at least 5 minutes. After 5 minutes have passed, taste the tea every 30 seconds until it is strong enough for you.
Step 3 – Strain the tea. Pour the tea through a strainer and into a teacup.
Best Herbs for Homemade Tea
Not all herbs make good teas, and some herbs have better benefits than others. So, here’s a list of the most common herbal tea ingredients and what they can do for you.
Chamomile can reduce your chances of heart disease, digestive problems, and cancer. Besides being a great sleep aid, it also helps fade acne scars and prevent breakouts.
Lemongrass improves circulation and promotes clear skin. It also helps boost your immunity and lower your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Mint helps fight bad breath, while also helping with digestion and stress.
Ginger strengthens your immune system and can relieve cold and allergy symptoms. Ginger can also prevent cancer. Use fresh ginger in teas.
Licorice helps relieve inflammatory pain and constipation. It also helps reduce stress and protect your skin and teeth.
Elder flowers boost your immune system and respiratory functions, as well as promote circulation.
Lavender is calming, making it a great sleep aid. It also improves skin, reduces stress, and relieves pain.
Those are just a few of the many herbs that can go into delicious herbal teas. You can find dried herbs at grocery stores and health food stores, as well as online stores.
To pre-proportion your ingredients and plan ahead for the next time you want to drink homemade tea, filling up your own tea bags is a good idea. However, finding a good tea bag can be difficult.
Tea bags have to be thick enough that they don’t dissolve in hot water, and thin enough that the herbs inside can still infuse the water. We recommend the BetyBedy Tea bags that can be found on Amazon.com.
These tea bags are made of wood pulp, making them biodegradable and eco-friendly. Plus, they close with a drawstring, which makes opening and closing them very easy. The reviews of this product are generally good, with only a few people complaining that the bags are too thick.
Herbal Tea Recipes
To make any of the following teas, simply look at the ingredients and use the instructions above to make your own tea.
Chamomile, Honey, Lemon Tea
To make 1 cup of tea, you’ll need 1 tbsp dried chamomile leaves, 1 tbsp dried lemongrass, and honey (as desired).
Ginger Mint Tea
To make 1 cup of tea, you’ll need 1 tbsp dried mint leaves and ½ tsp of dried ginger.
Lavender and Elder Flower Tea
To make 1 cup of tea, you’ll need 1 tbsp dried lavender and 1 tbsp dried elder flower.