Flavorfall: Grow Your Own Teas and Herbs


Photo: Pixabay

With fall approaching, consider adding some dimension to your garden this summer by incorporating a tea shrub. Tea shrubs are fairly easy to maintain, and one plant (camellia sinensis) can be used to make green, oolong and black teas.

 

Typically, tea shrubs are hardy Zone 8 plants. Zone 8 includes the Midwest and Southern U.S., making it perfect for our region. The small shrub grows 3 to 7 feet high and will flower with beautiful white blossoms in the fall. Camellia sinensis prefers well-drained, sandy soil. It will need to be at least 3 years old before you can start harvesting the leaves. Many nurseries offer nearly mature plants, if you’d like a head start.

 

Tea is a great alternative to coffee, since it contains antioxidants. It is said to help with weight loss and may even reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke, making it a healthy addition to any diet, according to Healthline.

 

Once your leaves are ready to harvest, you’ll need to decide what kind of tea you want to make. The steps below will show you how to make green, oolong and black teas.

Green Tea

 

Photo: Pixabay

Green teas are typically bittersweet, floral, fruity and nutty. Generally, they contain less caffeine than black tea and a high number of antioxidants.

 

To process:

  1. Pluck young leaves and leaf buds.
  2. Blot them dry, then let them dry in the shade for a few hours.
  3. Steam the leaves on your stove for 60 seconds, or roast them in a skillet for 2 minutes.
  4. Spread on a baking sheet and dry them in the oven for 20 minutes at 250’ Fahrenheit.
  5. Store in an air-tight container.

Oolong Tea

Photo: Image by bor chen from Pixabay

The processing method of oolong tea causes more oxidization, creating a grassy, toasty and full- bodied flavor. The darker the leaves, the richer the flavors tend to be. Oolong tea has slightly more caffeine than green tea, but not as much as black tea.

 

To process:

  1. Pluck young leaves and leaf buds.
  2. Spread on a towel under the sun and to wilt for 45 minutes.
  3. Bring inside and let the leaves sit at room temperature for 3 hours.
  4. Stir every hour during this process. As they dry, the edges of the leaves will turn red.
  5. Spread on a baking sheet and dry them in the oven for 20 minutes at 250’ Fahrenheit.
  6. Store in an air-tight container.

Black Tea              

Image by James Allen from Pixabay

Black tea has a higher caffeine content than most teas. It has a strong flavor and can be malty, earthy and fruity. How long your leaves are crushed and how long they’re dried can affect the flavor of your tea.

 

To process:

  1. Pluck young leaves and leaf buds.
  2. Roll the leaves between your hands and crush them, until they begin to turn red.
  3. Spread on a tray and leave in a cool location for 2 to 3 days.
  4. Once complete, spread on a baking sheet and dry them in the oven for 20 minutes at 250’ Fahrenheit.
  5. Store in an air-tight container.

 

The varied drying times and processing methods will create three dramatically different flavors and blends. Once you’re satisfied with your tea’s base, you can consider adding jasmine or hibiscus flowers, or other flavorings. To brew, simply steep them in a reusable tea bag or tea ball.

 

Need more tips? Learn more about how to create healthy soil for your garden and or how to store your summer harvest.