If you have ever wanted to know how to grow black tea this guide will give you the answers you need.
Black tea has become very popular recently. The reason why is that it contains high amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, and other nutrients.
This makes it great for health purposes, as well as giving you a small caffeine kick in the morning. And, it’s just a tasty beverage.
Tea is one of the oldest beverages known to man. It was discovered in China around 4000 BC.
In ancient times, it was used mostly for medicinal purposes, or in rituals. Today, it is widely consumed throughout the world.
You can grow your own tea plants at home. They require little maintenance, and they produce leaves that are rich in antioxidants.
In this informative guide, we will show you how to grow black tea from seedlings. We will also talk about how to harvest and process the leaves into tea.
Read on to learn how to grow and process your own black tea!
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Supplies you will need to grow black tea:
- Tea tree seeds (camellia sinensis)
- Growing tray
- Vermiculite/sphagnum moss
- Common Gardening Tools
How To Grow Your Own Tea Shrub
Tea shrubs are hardy to zone 8. The United States is divided into hardiness zones with a similar temperature and weather pattern.
Zone 8 includes the Midwest and southern US states, so if you live in a Zone 8 region, you will be able to grow a tea tree or a tea shrub in your backyard.
If you don’t live in these areas, it might be difficult to grow tea shrubs outdoors.
However, you could try growing them in a greenhouse or even a pot that you can take inside during winter.
The Camellia Sinensis plant is a small bush that grows about three to seven feet tall (though it might grow taller if it is left un-pruned).
It flowers in the fall and produces small white blooms with a sweet fragrance.
This plant is often grown as an ornamental, and like most tea plants, this requires well-drained, sandy, and acidic soil.
Sphagnum moss helps them grow better, so if you are trying to grow a camellia tree in a container, you should add some to the potting soil.
Start growing tea when it’s three years old – Yep! You have to be dedicated and patient when waiting for your cup of tea this way!
Check Your Soil
Once you have fulfilled all the necessary checks to make sure that your soil and area is suitable to grow tea in, and conducive to good growth, then you should start planting your tea seeds in a tray of compost or potting soil.
You want to choose a location where there is plenty of sunlight, but not too much heat (so not on top of a radiator).
Select a spot near a window or under a porch light. Make sure that the sun hits the area directly, without any shade.
When selecting a location, consider whether you would like to grow a single tea tree or several.
After planting your seeds, water them thoroughly. Keep the soil moist until the seedling sprouts.
After two weeks, remove the tray from the garden and place it somewhere warm and sunny. Once the seedling has sprouted, give it more attention by watering it daily.
As soon as the first set of leaves appear, you should stop giving it water every day.
At this point, you should keep the soil around the roots damp, but not wet, as you can stand the risk of drowning your new seedlings.
After about four weeks, you should see new woody shoots coming up through the soil.
Move these to a sunny spot in your garden, or into a container (that you then put in the sun).
Using a Container to Grow Tea
If you have put them in a container, ensure that the soil mix is sandy and well draining – you can achieve this by mixing potting compost with sphagnum moss, and potting sand (or some other kind of draining enhancing compound, such as perlite or vermiculite).
When your tea tree reaches six inches in height, you can begin pruning it. Prune back the stems to encourage bushy growth.
Do not cut off the entire stem at once; instead, cut it back in half, leaving one side longer than the other.
Cut the longer side down to about 1/2 inch above the ground.
Leave the shorter side alone. Over time, the longer side will grow outwards and eventually become the trunk of your tree.
When you’re done pruning, water your tea tree regularly. You may need to water it twice a week during the summer months.
During winter, however, you should only water your tea tree once a month.
In order to avoid overwatering, use a rain gauge to measure how much water your tree needs.
As your tea tree gets older, you’ll notice that its branches spread wider apart.
This is normal and does not mean that your tree is getting weaker.
How to Know if Your Tea Tree is Maturing
Instead, it means that the tree is maturing.
Your tea tree will continue to grow throughout its lifetime, and you will need to provide it with enough nutrients to help it get bigger and stronger.
Your tea tree will produce buds in springtime. These buds will open into flowers, which will develop into fruit.
The fruit will ripen over the course of many months. This is edible, but not widely consumed.
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A Few Other Considerations When Growing Tea
Be Careful Of The Cold
Cold hardy tea cultivation is risky when there are average winter lows under zero degrees Fahrenheit.
This is challenging between 0 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit and is fairly safe over 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
These are extreme examples of cold weather conditions, so they’re not things that your tea will encounter every winter.
But with long-living plants such as the tea tree Sinensis, you need to think about the long-term consequences of climate change because it only takes one particularly cold year to undo many decades of gardening effort.
Snow is common in tea-growing countries, such as Japan, China, and Georgia during the winter, but it doesn’t last long.
If you live where there is persistent snow or ice after a storm, or if the ground freezes hard, growing tea will be a riskier undertaking for you.
Tea Needs To Be In Warm And Humid Conditions
Tea needs warm weather, but there are limits. When the temperature is below 82℉, plants grow vigorously.
Above this range, plants grow slowly or even stop growing. This information is important to know if you want to grow tea indoors.
Tea also requires a lot of water to grow properly. In order to grow tea, you require a lot of rain.
Tea plants require about 50 inches of rain per year, but some people grow them in areas with much less rain.
Some people try to grow tea plants in places with more or less water than normal.
These people are called intrepid tea growers.
However, high temperatures and intense sun can cause stress in tea plants, which might cause leaves to turn yellow and fall off.
How To Harvest Tea Leaves
Tea plants are usually dormant during the winter months. When spring comes around, you’ll see some signs of life in your tea bushes.
When to Harvest
You can harvest the first two leaves off each shoot, which will encourage them to grow even stronger.
Harvesting these leaves will help to make your tea bush bushy. The buds and leaves will be bright green when harvested.
Harvesting of the tea plant occurs several times throughout the spring-summer season.
This gives plenty of opportunities to create different types of tea. Different plants give rise to different teas.
Green tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Oolong tea comes from the leaves or buds of the Camellia assamica plant.
Black tea comes from the leaves, buds, or twigs of the Camellia sinensis plant. The differences develop during the curing process.
How Tea Leaves Are Processed
Green tea is made from unoxidized leaves, while black tea is made from oxidized leaves. Oxidation makes the leaves darken and turn brownish.
The process of developing and oxidizing teas is as such:
1. Tea withering takes place indoors. Fans are used to pull and blow air over the leaves. Humidity is carefully monitored during this process.
Over about 12 hours, the tea leaves will wilt and wither, due to the carefully controlled airflow.
2. To start the oxidation process responsible for the color and flavor of black tea, the cell walls of tea leaves need to be broken open during the rolling process.
This can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour. Tea leaves are usually processed manually, but nowadays, they’re often processed automatically.
When processing them manually, the tea leaves are exposed to the air so that their enzymes and essential oils can be released.
3. Once the leaves are activated through rolling, they are left to rest for up to eight hours of oxidation. After the leaves are rolled, they’re left to rest for up to 8 hours before being used.
Oxidation occurs spontaneously at a wide range of temperatures. Thus, this process will continue as long as the leaves are exposed to air.
4. After the leaves have reacted with the air for a certain period of time, they are placed inside a drying chamber for final processing.
The heat involved in the final phase stops the oxidation process and locks the quality in place.
Final Thoughts on How to Grow Black Tea
In conclusion, I hope that this guide has helped you learn how to grow tea.
It’s a fun hobby, and something can be really achievable if you put in the research and the prep work to ensure your tea tree is happy. Good luck!