Don’t buy tea grow your own!

I grow my own herbal tea because it is cheaper, fresher and tastier than anything I can buy, but have you ever considered growing real tea?
My husband and I went to Sri Lanka on our honeymoon and visited a tea plantation.  It was a beautiful setting and a very interesting tour.  However, I will never forget what they called their lowest grade, tea bag tea, like the kind my husband drinks every day and various blends of which are widely available in our supermarkets.  They called it dust, as it was the absolute dregs, whatever remained after they had bagged up all the good tea leaves for sale.

Until this week I hadn’t given much consideration to growing actual tea instead of buying it, however a quick look on the internet yielded interesting results.  Apparently there is now a tea plantation in the UK, in Cornwall to be precise called Tregothnan.  They are selling tea plants at Tregothnan’s for around £10.  You can also buy seeds at various online retailers which are cheaper, but you wont get tea from them for 3 years.
 

I’m not sure yet whether this is a good investment in relation to having your own homegrown tea supply.  Also to make tea, some level of processing is needed.  However there are recipes for making tea at home on the internet and if you are able to take and grow cuttings from it successfully, you could create your own mini tea plantation and /or give some away as presents.  
 
I only actually drink herbal tea and I used to spend good money on it.  However a few months ago I bought every herb that I could find in the garden centre and planted them in my garden (you could also grow them from seed).  This way they are very low maintenance and I don’t need to water them or do anything at all, other than harvest the herbs a few leaves/ sprigs at a time.  Most of these herbs will last years, provided they get off to a good start and aren’t harvested to excess.  I have found that a few fresh leaves or a sprig of the following herbs make a delicious cup of herbal tea:
  • Thyme (one of my favourites at the moment especially the citrus variety, but I found only a little was needed in any one cup as too much gave me a headache)
  • Rosemary (a few rosemary leaves will last you all day – they don’t seem to lose their flavour easily)
  • Basil (a lovely sweet delicate tea), also tasty mixed with parsley.
  • Fennel (not so much to my taste, but nice occasionally)
  • Mint (much nicer than anything you can buy)
  • Lemon balm (I also love this lemon flavoured herb, which is apparently a relative of mint)
  • Dill (again not to my taste, but drinkable)
  • Camomile (use the flowers to make the tea – I have only had 3 flowers so far, but I haven’t had the plants long)
CAUTION: Herbs have numerous health benefits, which I won’t go into here, but it is worth mentioning that if drunk to excess some herbal teas may have unpleasant side effects, so use them in moderation.  Others shouldn’t be drunk if you have certain medical conditions or are pregnant.  I am not an expert on this, so it is well worth seeking expert advice if you are worried.

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