Home-grown tea

Daisyduckworth(Aust)April 9, 2009

I've been given a long-yearned for tea plant (Camellia sinsensis). It's early days yet, but I'd love to actually use it as I'm a great tea fan (even though I'm not supposed to use it for medicinal reasons! I limit myself to two cups a day, and I take it very weak, no milk).

There's a lot on the internet about how tea leaves are prepared for commercial use (fermenting processes etc), but I can't find anything on preparing it in your own kitchen. Does anyone have any experience with this?

My favourite commercial tea is Twining's Orange Pekoe. Any clues on how to get something akin to that? I prefer a fairly mild tea (hence I'll be careful to collect the flowers for white tea.)

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The preparation fo tea is very labor intensive. You said you had been reading about this, so I won't go into details. As far as trying to get something like orange pekoe, there are several factors that come into play. Tea taste different when grown in different soils and with different growing methods. Orange pekoe teas are grown in India, where the soil is very different than what you probably have. If you are going to try processing your own tea, it will likely taste different than anything you are used to. The best thing to do is experiment with the processing and see what you get.

Now then, you mentioned that you will save the flowers for making white tea. This is not actually how white tea is made. White tea is produced by picking the downy leaf buds, not flowers, that appear in early spring. The buds are then immediately steamed to stop oxidation, and dried.

I hope this information enlightens you a little on tea making.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tea processing at Home

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 2:21AM
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Thank you Mr Grizzly. I knew it was going to be a challenge! You have confirmed it, but it should be an interesting one.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2009 at 3:32AM
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Darn it, Daisy. I was expecting a post with detailed instructions! I've long been interested in homegrown tea but have yet to run across anyone that's actually done it (orange pekoe is also my fave). If you give this a try, please update.

Colby, thanks for that link!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 10:57AM
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Sounds like fun-- I'd love to have a camellia sinensis to experiment with!

Orange pekoe is just a description of leaf size, no more, no less. Not indicative of quality, flavor, or anything else. The term's usually just used for Indian teas, black, green, and white alike. (China and Japan have their own systems for grading tea)

Teas vary in how long they are left out before drying, whether they are rolled and bruised before drying, and how quickly they are dried.

Here's a link to a good brief guide to the different types of tea and how they're made. It looks like it would be easy to do a white tea at home by allowing it to wilt and then quick-drying it (in a roasting pan or perhaps a dehydrator?). A black would require a little more experimentation to determine how much bruising/fermentation to induce before drying.

The website I linked to (my favorite tea company) has a lot of other info you might find useful-- on abbreviations for different grades of tea (orange pekoe, BOP, FTGFOP, SFTGFOP1, etc), history of tea, tea and caffeine, etc. etc. Click on "information index" to find a list of articles.

Here is a link that might be useful: Types of tea and how they're produced

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 3:27PM
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the_gurgler(DFW TX 7b Sunset 33)

Preparing the leaves of Yaupon Holly make a good lite tea. I would compare it to green tea or Yerba Mate.

My preparation is quite simple:

1. Pick some new leaves and stems.
2. Lightly toast in the oven at 300F until the leaves begin to brown.
3. Take 1 tablespoon of leaves and stems and add to 2 cups boiling water.
4. Steep for 3 minutes and enjoy.

Now it certainly isn't Orange Pekoe. That said, there is something very cool about making tea from your garden and Yaupon Holly is such an easy plant to grow in Texas.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 10:38PM
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Gardener972(7b-8a DFW)

Yaupon holly... who knew?! I wonder if the berries can be used in the tea and if they lend a different flavor?

Daisyduckworth, I too love tea. Have you tried "Taj Mahal" tea from India? It's the one that's used mostly in making chai. Yum!!!

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 12:58PM
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I've been experimenting with several different ways to make tea - both green, black and oolong. The best I've come up with is oolong and I did hit on black tea just once. What tea you get depends on your processing methods - green being the easiest of all and not allowed to ferment. Black is the tea that's been fermented the most and oolong is somewhere in the middle. All using camellia sinensis - fresh new soft green growth, bud (smallest leaf at top)and 1-2 beneath the bud as long as they are still soft and new.

I also have an old picture frame I've covered with screen wire (small like window screen) to put my tea leaves on to dry.

Here's my recipe for green tea:

Freshly picked tea leaves
Put on screen tray
Allow to wilt for about 45 minutes in the sun
Steam the leaves (or gently pan saute for about 2 minutes low heat) This stops the fermentation process.
Put in a 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes to dry. I want to try skipping the oven drying and try for a dehydrator dry instead - I'll let you know if that works.
Store in an air tight container.

My recipe for oolong:
Freshly picked tea leaves
Put on screen tray
Allow to wilt for about 20 minutes in sun
Tear, roll and crush leaves in your hands to bruise them
Let them sit in a shady location and toss them and roll them in your hands every hour for about 4 hours - you can do it longer but usually not shorter periods of time
This should result in a bronze look to most of the leaves.
I then bring them in and put them in a 250 degree oven for about 15-20 minutes to dry and stop fermentation. Store in airtight container.

Both of these make really good tea. As soon as I perfect the "home-method" of black tea - I'll surely post it.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 7:02AM
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Thank you Debbie - you haven't tried White Tea, have you? That's one I'd like to prepare.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 6:01PM
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Hi, Daisyduckworth! How has the tea making gone? Or did the weather these last years totally mess you up?

Gardener972, -don't- use berries when making yaupon tea. I'm told that, like the berries of all hollies, they are not good for human consumption.

the_gurgler, how long have you been making your yaupon tea? Do you have a favorite time of year in DFW to pick your leaves and twigs? Do you have a favorite time of year to trim your yaupons, regardless of tea making?

(Yes, the yaupons need to be trimmed... yes, I'm a chicken about trimming them... and yes, I'm kinda feeling culinarily brave.)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 8:48AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I've made teas with peppermint and basil. I just lop some off and put it in my cup and zap it in the microwave. sorry to make most of you cringe! I've never been fancy and I never will be! Both are supposed to be good for the digestive system. I wasn't able to drink either one for long because I have reflux. I reused them and I was able to get two cups of tea out of each helping.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 4:21PM
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