Perhaps it’s time to grow your own special garden blend of tea...
Doing away with teabags, and the micro plastic contained in some brands, has been an easier transition than anticipated during these last 2 years. Now all my Australian grown loose leaf black tea goes from container, to the tea infuser, to the kitchen compost container and is then run out into the compost heap daily.
While changing these habits and watching how much caffeine was actually being consumed (which was a mix of “oops” and “oh my goodness”), my tea drinking thoughts also inevitably turned to the garden, where there are many herbal plants that can offer up a very special cup of tea.
As well as freshening your breath and providing health benefits, there are the environmental benefits of less transport, no use of pesticides, and less packaging associated with growing your own cup of tea.
Whether you air dry or use plants fresh, there are many plants available to grow a nice cuppa. Not only can leaves be used, theres also flowers, roots, stalks or other items such as rose hips.
Or brew a native cup...
Australian native plants that can be used include lemon or aniseed myrtle, strawberry or peppermint gum leaves, Wild Hibiscus or Wattleseed.
But where to start?
To begin with, I looked at what I already had growing or that I could forage. There was rose-scented geranium leaves, thyme, rosemary, spearmint, rose petals, nettles, raspberry and blackberry leaves, elderberry, sage and calendula, so it was a good start! Our local library service has many books about herbal tea and their health benefits, flavour compositions and some with growing tips and how to prepare a lovely cup (water temperature etc).
Sleepy time tea:
I began to grow German Chamomile and then added Lemon Myrtle and local honey for a beautiful sweet calming tea before bed in lieu of dessert. We might be able to add weight loss to that list of benefits!
With rose petals, rose-scented geraniums, spearmint leaves, raspberry leaves and nettles, it is an invigorating cup that helps ease muscle soreness.
t’s true that some people prefer a savoury cup. Add thyme, rosemary, calendula, sage plus a green leaf like raspberry, blackberry or nettles for a herbal hit thats refreshing and zesty.
Really, when making a cup of tea, you are only limited by your imagination and you can experiment with different edible plants every day if you wanted to!
Back to the humble black cup of tea...
It is possible to grow black tea in Australia, in fact it grows in a variety of climates from Queensland, all the way down to Tasmania.
Tea is a form of camellia (Camellia sinensis). Two subspecies are cultivated commercially: C. sinensis subsp. sinensis, a small-leafed tea used for white, green, oolong and black tea, and C. sinensis subsp. assamica, a large-leafed tea that is only used to make black tea.
The tea plants grow in humid areas with rich, acid soil and high rainfall. It grows well in tropical and sub-tropical climates with partial shade, but in other areas it needs full sun as long as it receive sufficient water. They thrive in humid coastal regions, but also seem to do well in temperate climates. My thoughts are (because they like humidity), that they may be more suited to a warm temperate climate. We struggle to grow a mushroom kit here, so usually it's not very humid in our cold temperate climate. If anyone has grown black tea plants in our area though, we would love to know, so send us a message on Instagram and tell us about it!
You can source tea plants from any specialist camellia nursery, or perhaps ask your best locally owned nursery as they may be able to order in from one of these specialists. I find that local nursery’s, often family owned, are the best people to chat to plants about!
I recently found out from this article at Sustainable Gardening Australia that any tea grown commercially in Australia is pesticide free, as Australia’s strict quarantine laws have prevented pest entry.
To grow enough for one household, two plants are recommended. In 2-4 years they will reach maturity, but you can begin harvesting from 6 months.
Mulling over a cuppa...
So there seems to be a lot of food for thought in all this tea talk. If you can’t get growing right away, perhaps source some Australian, plastic free black tea leaves and think about putting some nice mint or chamomile in a pot on the patio or windowsill.
Our daily cuppa is of paramount importance. Time to go put the kettle on...