Quali-Tea Gardens: How to Grow Your Next Cup of Tea at Home
By Carmen and Tripp Eldridge, Farm Directors at Arden
There’s nothing quite like a cup of tea in the morning. It’s the perfect steamy drink in the cold, a refreshing beverage in the heat, and a lifesaver when you fall under the weather. Say goodbye to rummaging through grocery store aisles through different brands and flavors and say hello to Tea Gardens. Whatever temperature you enjoy your tea at, you’ll love how refreshing it can taste when you brew it with herbs that you grew in your own tea garden.
You might be wondering what exactly a tea garden is. It’s a place to grow your favorite aromatic herbs that you can steep for the perfect cup of tea. From chamomile to mint, here are a few tips to infuse new flavors into your morning brew.
Where To Start Your Garden
Tea gardens are incredibly versatile and perfect for both a beginner gardener and an expert. Tea herb gardens are best grown outdoors. Whether you have an outdoor plot or small pot in your home, as long as you have access to direct sunlight, you’ll be able to participate in this growing trend. The soil in your chosen location should be well-draining and get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
What to Grow
There are so many options when it comes to planning what to plant in your tea garden. Here are a few suggestions and tips on what to grow to get you started.
Mint – Best grown in pots and small containers, mint and herbs like it (peppermint, for example) are extremely easy to grow in South Florida winters. Make sure that the pot you choose has proper drainage holes and water your plant when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. If you see flower stalks start to grow, remove them as soon as possible to maintain a concentrated mint flavor for your tea.
Lemongrass – Lemongrass is a great herb to grow outdoors in the springtime. This herb loves South Florida weather and a lot of water. Make sure you place it where it gets full sun and check on it consistently for watering. Lemongrass is very easy to grow and is naturally sweet. It even tastes a bit like fruit loops!
Camellia Sinensis – Commonly known as the “tea plant,” camellia sinensis is the actual plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce traditional tea. When steeped, the dried buds and leaves of camellia sinensis can produce green, black, or oolong tea rich in natural caffeine and antioxidants. This plant loves warmer sites with partial sunlight. Keep in mind that it may take a few years before you’ll be able to enjoy your first tea harvest if you’re growing your camelia sinensis from seeds.
Yaupon Holly – This plant is native to Florida and makes a great herbal brew perfect for a caffeine boost to start your day. These teas are rich in antioxidants, similar to green tea. Yaupon holly plants are versatile and more tolerant to a variety of soil types, moisture levels, and sun exposures. Regardless of where you grow, this rare plant transplants easily and is resistant to most diseases and pests.
Roselle – Roselle is like Florida’s Kool-Aid. It’s delicious and incredibly nutritious, and common in Island and Latino cultures. This plant loves heat and humidity, perfect for growing in South Florida summers. The flowers, when combined with water, honey, and lime juice, brews the perfect cup of tea
How To Brew Your Tea
Once you have grown your tea garden and are ready to reap the rewards to your hard work, it’s time to steep your tea. To brew the perfect cup, start by chopping the leaves or flowers of your chosen herbs. Let them sit in hot water for about 10 to 15 minutes. This will let the essential oils infuse into the water and flavor your tea. But beware, if you leave the herbs in for too long, you may risk drinking bitter tea.
Once fully steeped, feel free to add fresh lemons or honey to your mug for a sweeter or more citrusy flavor. No matter if it’s time to curl up with a hot mug on a rainy day or sip on a cool iced drink on your porch, having your own tea garden means that the perfect cup of tea is never out of your reach!