Travel Destinations: things to do

Grow your own tea plant

 A nice grand view of Sg Palas tea plantation valley, makes you want to jump out of your car and go running around in the tea bush, eh?

Ever fancied growing your own tea plant in your very own garden? Then you have access to fresh tea leaves to brew your own cuppa tea! The question of growing tea plant in your own house was pop by one of my readers. So a quick check online yielded a few interesting sites. The site mentioned that it was surprisingly easy to grow. Perhaps the author was located in a temperate country, because with our eternal summer weather in the lowlands, I wonder if we would be successful to grow tea plant in our own garden. I guess that's the reason why tea plantations are located way up there in Cameron Highlands.

Here's a bit of history about tea plant. The tea plant is from the family of Camelia. Its origin is from China, Tibet and northern India. There are two main varieties of tea plant. The Camelia sinensis is the small leaf variety and thrives in the cool, high region of central China and Japan. It is also the same variety grown by Boh and Bharat in the Cameron Highlands tea plantation. The Camelia assamica is the broad leaf variety and grows in moist, tropical climates in areas like Northeast India, Szechuan and Yunnan provinces of China. The broad leaf variety produces dark green shiny leaves with small white blossoms.

Tea plants have a growth phase and a dormant period. New buds and leaves are called flush and a new flush will grow from the tea plant every seven to ten days during the growing season. Only the top 1-2 inch of mature tea plant is harvested. And if you didn't prune or harvest the flushes, left undisturbed the tea plant will grow into a big tree. For ease of harvesting, tea plants are pruned to waist height and end up looking like shrubs rather than a tree!

Apparently you don't need a large garden to grow your own tea plant. A planter or pot would seem to work fine. The Camellia sinensis variety likes a well-drained and sandy soil that should be on the acidic side. If growing it in a container or pot, it was mentioned that you need to add sphagnum moss to the potting mix. Now, where on earth are you going to get sphagnum moss since it is obtained from bogs and decomposed peat? I'll let the gardener in you guys figure that out.

The quality of the tea is influenced by both the environment such as soil and climate and the tea maker who decides when and how the leaf is to be plucked and how it is to be processed.

The Camellia sinensis tea plants can also be grown as ornamental decoration in your house and if it flowers with a small white blossom, a delightful scent will waif around your house. So if you can't get a good quality tea out of the plant, at least as a consolation you could get some natural perfume around your house!

So once the tea plant has reached the harvesting period, you can then pluck the leaves and process your tea leaves to make into your own tea. Although there are various types of tea, they are all derived from the same type of plant and by using the different method of processing you could get your different classification of black, white, green or oolong tea.

However even with the same classification, there will still be variation in taste and the discerning drinker can differentiate the taste. Even if the tea comes from the same tree or plantation, each harvest will yield a different flavour. Not to mention the various variables of environmental climate, processing the tea leaves, storage condition and transportation.

Thus is such that the tea company will employ a tea master who will taste each harvest and source of tea and blend the various grades to get a consistent flavour. So if you buy a Gold Blend Boh Tea or a Ahmad Earl Grey Tea or Twinnings English Breakfast Tea, you will be ensured to have the same flavour and taste when you are having your cup of afternoon tea.

Here are some methods for making the various types of tea:

Green Tea

  • Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  • Blot the leaves dry, and let dry in the shade for a few hours.
  • Steam the leaves (like you would vegetables) on your stove for about a minute.
  • For a different flavour, try roasting them in a skillet for 2 minutes instead of steaming.
  • Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
  • Store the dried tea leaves in an air-tight container

Oolong Tea

  • Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  • Spread them out on a towel under the sun and let them wilt for about 45 minutes.
  • Bring your leaves inside and let them sit at room temperature for a few hours.
  • Make sure to stir the leaves up every hour.
  • The edges of the leaves will start to turn red as they begin to dry.
  • Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
  • Store the dried tea leaves in an air-tight container.

Black Tea

  • Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  • Roll the leaves between your hands, and crush them until the leaves start to darken and turn red.
  • Spread them out on a tray, and leave them in a cool location for 2-3 days.
  • Dry them in the oven at 250F for about 20 minutes.
  • Store in an air-tight container.


As for me? I'm not much of a green thumb, so I guess won't be experimenting with the above. I think I'll just drop by a nearby good old grocery store and just buy a box of tea sachets, boil the hot water and pour out a hot cuppa. Call me lazy, but, ahÂ… so much more easier and relaxing!

Best of luck for those who want to try it!


Posted on 21-Feb-2008

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