Tea Plant FAQS

Tea Plant FAQS

Debbie Odom

What are Tea Plants?

Tea plants are evergreen plants that are members of the Camellia family.  The plant species used for tea production is Camellia sinensis.

Can any camellia produce tea?

While it is possible to produce tea from the leaves of other camellia species besides Camellia sinensis, the resulting beverage may not taste, look, or smell the same as traditional tea.  All camellia species contain certain chemical elements that when processed for tea, may give you different results.

Where can I grow tea?

Tea from Camellia sinensis can be grown in most mild regions of the USA and around the world.  In the USA, they do best grown outdoors in climate zones 7-8-9.   Tea can be grown in colder climates if they are grown outdoors in warm weather, indoors in cold weather.

How many plants do I need to produce tea?

That depends on how much you want to make.  If you have a small family and only drink tea occasionally, then 1-2 mature plants should be fine.  If you have a larger family or want to produce more tea, then start with 10-12 plants and increase as plants as needed.

When do I harvest tea? 

You only want to harvest the soft tender green growth when the plant is actively growing.  Plants in the USA usually go into a dormant period in Fall-Winter.  So harvesting in zones 7-8-9 would be anywhere from March-September depending on your climate.

Why do I want to have bushy plants?

You are harvesting tea from the tips of plants.  So you want to have as many tips as possible.  The bushier the plant, the more tea you can harvest.

How do I make my plants bushy?

The best way is to start with pruning your plant just before spring growth.  Pruning your plant each year to about 2-3′ tall will encourage the plant to put on lots of shoots.  When you begin harvesting tea, do it on a regular basis – every 10-12 days as new growth emerges.  This will continue the “bushy” formation of your plants.

How big will my tea plants get?

Your tea plants, if left alone with no pruning, can get upwards of 10-12 feet tall.     For optimal tea production, we suggest keeping your plant to 2-3 feet tall.

Are the flowers used for tea production?

No, the flowers are not normally used in the production of tea.

How do I start to grow my own tea? 

The easiest way is to start with Tsubaki Tea Plants!  We produce exceptional quality tea plants that will give you a great start to grow your own tea.

What is the purpose of the flowers?

Plants flower as a way of reproduction.  Flowers that are pollinated will usually form seed pods.  When ripe, the seeds fall to the ground and seedlings soon emerge.  Seedlings are genetically different from the mother plant.

Can I use regular potting soil to grow my camellias in containers?

Be very careful of using a general purpose potting soil with Tea plants.  Usually, these soils are formulated for vegetables and bedding plants and are designed to hold water to keep your plants from drying out.  Because of the components used in commercial potting mixes, soils are usually very compact leaving very little air space for your roots to breathe.  Tea Plants like to have a soil that has good drainage and good oxygen.  We use a finely ground aged pine bark mix that has some moisture retention, but the water drains away from the roots instead of compacting the soil.

Where can I get a container mix?

We would suggest starting with your local nursery that may grow their own shrubs.  They usually have a soil that works well or Azaleas or Camellias.  You can also try Miracle Grow Garden Soil for Shrubs and Trees.  This contains a lot of “forest” components,  ground up matter such as sticks, twigs, and compost.  The larger pieces allow for water to flow around the roots providing more oxygen.

What types of plants do I need to grow green, black or oolong tea?

All tea is made from the same plant – Camellia sinensis.  It’s not the plant that determines what tea you get, but the way you make it.  It’s like potatoes.  French fries, mashed potatoes, and potato chips are all made from potatoes.  But it’s the way they are processed that makes them what they turn out to be.

What is the difference between Green, Black and Oolong teas?

Green Tea – fresh leaves are not allowed to oxidize, or to ferment. Leaves are not bruised.   It’s the purest and simplest to make.  Caffeine content is the lowest in green tea.

Oolong Tea – leaves are allowed to partially oxidize, or ferment.  Twisting, cutting and bruising of the leaves produces a light coppery color and mild taste.   Slightly higher caffeine content compared to green tea.

Black Tea – Leaves are allowed to fully oxidize or ferment.  Twisting, cutting and bruising of the leaves produces a heavy bodied tea with a nice aroma and rich deep earthy taste.  Caffeine content is highest in black teas.

How long before I can harvest my own tea leaves?

Any leaves harvested need to be soft green growth, never the older harder growth.  You can process the leaves from any size plant.  Smaller plants will only produce a few leaves.  The bushier and older the plant gets, the more tea leaves it will produce.  We recommend you wait until your plant is at least 3 years old before you begin to harvest for tea.

What is the difference between your plants?

We are a grower of Camellia sinensis Tea Plants.  All plants are originally grown from seeds, we refer to them as ‘seedlings’.   If we find a seedling that shows desirable characteristics such as growth habit, leaf texture or overall visual appeal, then we may choose to name it and reproduce it from cuttings.  All cuttings are an exact duplicate of the plant in which it came from.  All plants grown from seeds are genetically different, even though they may look very similar.  We don’t name every seedling,  but we do evaluate each and every one in our quest for the perfect tea plant!

Which one of your plants will make better tea? 

There is not really one that is better used or not used for tea.  Our tea plants have a wide diversity of characteristics that make them attractive plants for the garden, but they all will make the same type of tea.  It’s the way you process, not necessarily the individual plant, that determines the overall outcome of your tea.

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