In recent years we have seen more and more interest in growing tea and with hundreds of succesful home tea growers up and down the country the humble tea plant is hardier than you might think. Originating in high and quite cold areas of the himalyas, Tea plants have actually been grown in the UK for hundreds of years. Winston Churchill looked at growing tea as part of the Dig for Victory campaign and more recently we are very proud to be suppliers of tea plants to Scotlands first tea plantation.
White, green and our traditional builders brew all come from the same plant but it is the way that the leaves are processed that affects the flavour. White tea is the least processed tea and has a very subtle flavour. Fresh leaves steeped in hot water will give a mass of health benefits but may be a bit too subtle for our British Palate. Black tea is what we normally drink in this country, strong or milky, loose or in bags. It's certainly possible to make at home but it does take a bit more time and care - for more information on this do check out our friend Cassie Liversidge's book 'Homegrown Tea' - its full of top tips and step by step guides on how to process black, green and white tea plus a wide range of herbal teas and tissanes.
Green tea is the compromise, partially processed leaves are full of flavour and rich in anti-oxidants - Probably the best way to make the most of your fresh harvest - making green tea is a simple process anyone can do at home.
First you want to select the leaves for harvest. In the spring and summer you should notice a fresh 'flush' of young leaves and these are the perfect ones for tea making and the most prized by tea growers. Pick the two youngest leaves and the bud off each branch to give yourself a small pile of fresh soft leaves to work with.
The next step is to heat the leaves by steaming them. A steamer works best or just in a colander over a pan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes. You want the leaves to start to wilt and to turn an olive green colour but not to cook. As soon as they have changed colour run them under cold water to stop the heating process.
Now you need to roll the leaves. A sushi mat works well for this to get them nice and even, but you can also roll them in the palms of your hands - working them into narrow cigar shapes and as you do so breaking down the leaves and releasing some of the flavour.
The next stages is to dry the leaves in a warm oven. Place your rolled leaves on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 100C for 10-12 minutes and turn them half way through. Be careful not to over do it and allow them to cool down and dry out a bit further and that's it ...ta da - you've made Green Tea!
The leaves can be used like this fresh or dried over a radiator or in an airing cupboard for another day or two until they are properly dry and crispy ready for storage.
Buy your very own tea plant today and you too can enjoy the fresh taste of home brewed green tea