Anyone who knows me knows that I am always up for the chance to grow something new or slightly unusual. Imagine my delight when, while browsing though one of my gardening magazines, I came across an article about growing your own tea right here in the UK!
At first I thought I was mistaken, after all, doesn’t tea come from far away exotic lands? Last time I checked, the famous expression of refusal was “Not for all the tea in China”. I have to say “Not for all the tea in the United Kingdom” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it! But mistaken I was not. To my amazement as I read the article it became clear that not only can you really grow your own tea plants right here in the UK, you can actually harvest your own leaves and use them to make real tea too!
While countries like India and China are indeed the more well know tea producing locations, the UK also has a good climate for growing tea and there are already two tea plantations right here in the UK, one in Scotland and one in Cornwall. The thing about tea is that it likes temperate climates with lots of moisture. In China, tea is often grown in the mountain regions and this is because the cooler, more temperate climate is ideal for the plants.
It is no surprise that within a few minutes of digesting all the information in the article I was milling over the idea of purchasing my own tea plant and a few days later, that is exactly what I did! I ordered online from a UK company named “Plants4Presents” because they were selling more mature tea plants that suited what I wanted. They even offered a free wooden planter and gift card (my plant was only a gift to myself, but I still selected a pretty card with a picture of the Seven Sisters at the South Coast).
While waiting for my plant to be delivered, I put some effort into learning as much as possible about growing and caring for a tea plant. I learnt that the tea plants suitable for growing here in the UK are actually a part of the Camellia family. Their Latin name is “Camellia Sinensis” and they are native to China. The variety native to India is called “Camellia Assamica” and these are used to make Assam style teas. However this Indian variety is not suited to growing in the UK. I also learned that black, white and green tea can all be harvested from the same plant. It is the way the tea leaves are processed after picking that determines the “variety” of the final product.
One unexpected fact I discovered is that Tea plants are actually fairly hardy plants and will survive a British winter – they can even survive a bit of snow! The only exception to this is that young plants should be brought inside or protected with fleece during very cold spells with container grown plants more at risk from the cold. Once a plant is more mature and planted outside in the ground it should survive many a British winter!
Armed with my new found knowledge, I was now waiting with anticipation for my plant to be delivered – I was like an excited Child on Christmas morning every time the doorbell rang! Luckily, I did not have long to wait. My tea plant had been advertised with a two week wait time but it arrived after just one!
Now, I am not sponsored or endorsed by the company I purchased from, but my goodness, they were wonderful to purchase from! As well as the early arrival, my plant arrived beautifully wrapped in yellow and green tissue paper and it contained some free fertiliser and care instructions. The free planter was a lovely extra touch and even the gift card was beautiful – more like a full on birthday card than a small gift card. I think I am going to frame mine and hang it as a picture! The whole process from start to finish was easy and the plant itself looked healthy and happy! The website I purchased from was http://www.plants4presents.co.uk and I would absolutely recommend them and purchase from them again. My tea plant cost me £30, but I did go for their larger plant, there were smaller, cheaper alternatives.
So, now I am the proud owner of my very own tea plant! I can’t wait to be harvesting my own tea leaves and creating my very own blend of tea and I am sure that when I do, I will be letting the world know about it!