This evergreen plant not only works as an ornamental shrub in woodland gardens or even as a hedge, but it, and its many cultivars, are also responsible for producing many different kinds of tea that’s sold commercially. For our plant profile’s purpose though, we’ll stick with the main one, Camellia sinensis, also known as the Green Tea Plant.
Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub with deep green leaves that grows well in part shade under tree canopies. It likes to be protected from early morning sun and direct, afternoon sun in moderately moist soils. Not only is this a great plant for winter interest due to its evergreen leaves, but it also has fragrant white-yellow flowers in fall to early winter. It is typically grown as a shrub and works well in containers also. If left unpruned, they are able to grow into a small tree.
If you’re wanting to harvest the leaves to make tea, you’ll want to do so by hand as only the top leaves should be taken off (for green tea). You’ll want to harvest them in the warmer months when the plant is growing its best so it has plenty of new growth (the top leaves). A group, also known as a flush, or new leaves, is ideal to pick. A smaller group with 2-3 leaves is known as a golden flush.
Once you’ve harvested the leaves, you’ll want to spread them out and let them sit out to wilt for 4-8 hours. The key part to making green tea, is to not let the leaves oxidize so the next step is to pan fry them in a dry pan for 5 minutes and then spread them back out to cool. Once they are cool the next step is to roll them. If you have just a couple of leaves or flushes, you can roll them by hand. If you have a bigger harvest, you’ll want to place the leaves in a clean cloth and then form a ball and roll it against a hard surface stopping every minute or two to separate the leaves. Once the leaves have been rolled, you’ll want to roast them in a 180-200F oven until dry. After all these steps are complete, place them in an airtight container away from direct light and store for 6-12 months.
Now the good part, making tea! Like most tea it’s pretty simple. Use about a teaspoon of leaves per cup and steep in less than boiling water for 2-3 minutes and enjoy!
After realizing how easy it is to make your own tea at home, you might be thinking of getting one or two of your own Camellia sinensis shrubs and we have some available at our nursery! If you’re local, you can order online and pickup at our nursery in Snohomish. You can purchase Camellia sinensis from our online store here.