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How To Grow Tea Plant Camellia Sinensis

>14 August 2012
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One day, as I was making our beloved sweet tea, it occurred to me that it would be awesome if we could grow our own tea! Imagine never having to buy those tea bags again!

So I did a little research, and this is what I found out…

Black Tea (which is what we use for our Southern Style Sweet Tea), and Green Tea (which I also enjoy) are made from the same plant- Camellia Sinensis.

  • Although it is native to Asia, it can be grown in zones 7-9. (Zones 7-9 can be found on the east coast from around Washington DC down to Central Florida, and spreads west across the lower half of the United States, encompassing virtually all of California as well as a few other areas in that region.)
  • It is an evergreen shrub or small tree, which should be pruned to 4-6 ft. in height for ease of picking.
  • In the Fall it blooms delicate white flowers, which make this plant a fantastic landscaping choice for around your home’s foundation or garden sheds.
  • These plants need full sun to part shade, in rich organic soil. They thrive in neutral to partly acidic conditions.

Garden of Tomorrow shares some fantastic information on how to use this tea plant…

Baby leaves are harvested, cut, roasted, dried and fermented in different ways to produce different types and varieties of tea. Depending on where the Camellia Sinensis tea plant is grown it will produce varying flavor. The baby leaves contain 4% caffeine on average. There are six primary varieties of tea produced from the Camellia Sinensis tea plant, they are oolong tea, green tea, white tea, black tea, flowering tea, and my favorite pu’er tea.


Preparing Green Tea from Camellia Sinensis

  • Pluck the newly grown young leaves and leaf buds in early Spring.
  • Preheat your oven to 250°F.
  • Dry the leaves with a napkin or clothe and let the leaves dry in the shade for about 3 or 4 hours in the heat of the day.
  • Dice the leaves with a kitchen knife so they look more like your used to seeing prepared tea leaves.
  • Steam the leaves for about a minute, or for a different flavor roast them in a skillet for 2 minutes instead.
  • Spread the leaves out on a pan and dry in the oven at 250°F for 20 minutes.
  • Either store the leaves for later, or make a cup and taste test it!

Preparing Oolong Tea from Camellia Sinensis

  • Pluck the newly grown young leaves and leaf buds in early Spring.
  • Spread them out on a towel in the heat of the sun and let them dry  for about 45 minutes.
  • Bring your leaves inside and let them sit at room temperature for about 4 hours, mixing the leaves around every hour.
  • Preheat your oven to 250°F.
  • The edges of the leaves will start to turn red as they begin to dry.
  • Spread the leaves on a baking pan and dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
  • Either store the leaves for later, or make a cup and taste test it!

Preparing Black Tea from Camellia Sinensis

  • Pluck the very youngest leaves and leaf buds.
  • Roll the leaves between your hands or with a rolling pin and crush them until the leaves start to darken and turn red.
  • Spread them out on a tray, and leave them in a cool location for 2-3 days.
  • Spread the leaves on a baking pan and dry in the oven at 250F for 20 minutes.
  • Either store the leaves for later, or make a cup and taste test it!

Make your own tea

  • Also start with the very youngest leaves, leaf buds and stems.
  • (Some teas are made of mostly the steam from the plant!)
  • Cut your tea into small pieces, kind of dice it.
  • Experiment with drying, crushing, roasting, fermenting and flavoring your tea.
  • (Mix other flowers for unique flavors: Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Fruit flowers, Lemon Balm flowers, Rose flowers, Rose hips, Chamomile, etc)
  • Make sure your tea is dry before storing in an air tight container or you may get mold.

This past Spring I planted two Camellia Sinensis roots which I’d ordered online. I was so excited to have this new addition to the homestead, and I couldn’t wait to begin harvesting our own tea leaves.

That was, until my husband went around the yard with a weed-whacker and obliviously annihilated my sprouts.

I was horrified the next day when I discovered the remains of my plants. In all fairness, I hadn’t told Jerry where I put the plants, so I couldn’t hold it against him. And I had let weeds grow up all around them.

Lesson learned.

When Jerry got home later that day I walked him around the yard and pointed out everything I’d planted, so he’d know what not to whack next time ;)

Anyways, I was excited today when I discovered new growth on the stump remains of my tea bushes. They’re growing back!! I may just have home grown sweet tea after all.

Wouldn’t you love to grow your own organic tea leaves?! Plant some Camellia Sinensis!





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  • Nancy said:

    Thanks for doing the research on tea. I often wondered if growing tea was do-able. Where did you find the plants? Please keep (me) updated on how it grows and your first cup of tea!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Hi Nancy, here’s the link to where I bought them (Burpee). Looks like they’re out of stock right now, though: http://www.burpee.com/perennials/shrubs/tea-camellia-sinensis-prod002292.html?_requestid=22021

  • sandra said:

    do you only plant heirloom seeds? or do you also plant some of the hybids varieties? also, is there any particular place you would recomend buying seeds from? are some mail order varieties better than others?

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:


    When I’m buying edible bushes and trees, I don’t necessarily only go for heirloom, since I don’t plan on saving seeds from them. I do buy heirloom seeds for my garden, though. When I’m looking for particular plants or seeds to order, I always read reviews of the company that sells them on Dave’s Garden.

  • Bobbi said:

    Oh man, thanks for the research! I am in FL so I could grow this too! I love green tea and it is so good for you.

  • ashlee said:

    I know what I’m planting in my front flower bed! Thanks! :)

  • Carol J. Alexander said:

    Kendra, I buy my tea by the pound! Green especially. Would love to be able to grow it, but I have a friend who tried and it wouldn’t grow. Please give an update.

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    It may be a while before my plants are big enough to harvest from, but I’ll keep you all updated! :)

  • Heather said:

    AH! I have been dreaming of this! I have the perfect place to put a tea tree/plant, too. You may have encouraged me to take the plunge…

  • SJ Smith said:

    Since it’s a camelia, does that mean it needs acidic soil?

  • Susan B, said:

    I’m so tickled to have found your website, and I will definitely be a regular reader! I love the idea of growing and making my own tea, and so to that end I have ordered a catalog….and I’m just getting started!

  • Kendra at New Life On A Homestead (author) said:

    Glad to have you, Susan B!!

  • Homeinsteader said:


    The above site talks about which tea plant is best, the only tea plantation in the US, and even a source in NC for ordering the “right” plants….how to grow it and even how to brew it properly! Very interesting!

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