Hello TEA Friends,
This May, we planted a tea garden at our up-north retreat, Pemberly Pines (see photo bottom right). Knowing it would be a challenge to cultivate our own Camellia sinensis in a growing zone several levels north of the tropics, we nonetheless took it on as a total curiosity, if not a learning experience. In its cedar planter, the tiny tea plant sprig thrived in a clearing in the middle of our property, along with several herbs that have already provided us with some delicious tisanes.
According to the American Camellia Society, and About.com coffee/tea the tea plant grows best in zones 7, 8 and 9 and in sandy, well-drained, acidic soil with full sun to partial shade. So we do have a few things against us: we're in zone 4 and slightly below the US average for sunny days in the summer months (remember, we're growing inside in November!). We've got a few positives to encourage us, however, our soil is sandy and acidic and the clearing is in the sunniest part of all of Pemberly In addition, the tea plant can be grown very successfully in planters with seasonal indoor sheltering. I need only look to our friends at Light of Day in Traverse City, who now have an impressive tea plant the size of a small tree after only five years of growing.
In the fall we can expect our plant to flower and in the spring, it will dispense seed pods. In approximately three years, we can begin to harvest our plant for tea leaves and begin making our very own black - or green - tea.
With just another few weeks of August left, we'll be looking to bring the Camellia sinensis in soon. We'll keep you posted on its progress throughout the year.
In the meantime, we're enjoying the teas we've been brewing with the herbs from our garden. Refreshing and delicious, we've found the mint makes a wonderful cup of tea on its own or as an accompaniment to other brews, such as tea mojitos (more to follow on that).
If a tree can grow in Brooklyn, a tea plant has a chance in northern Michigan.
Yours in tea and friendship,