“Oh,” said Mark as he went to empty the food scraps into the black compost bin. “A tea maiden.” I was picking the finest, youngest leaves off the tea camellia. At least I know to pick only the tender leaves. I may have learned this from advertisements long ago, claiming superior status for some brands on account of only picking the youngest, most tender leaves. I am guessing the cheaper, dustier teas are from the tougher leaves further down the stem.
Preparing the tea is still a learning process here. Last year’s harvest was a bit bland, to be honest, so was mostly used up making kombucha because it didn’t rival our preferred French Earl Grey tea. I shall try fermenting this batch a little longer than just overnight to see if that deepens the flavour. Maybe two or three days before I start the drying process.
And I am upping the additional flavourings component because we like aromatic teas. It will be citrus and rose scented – using tender leaves of the lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), orange blossom (the orange trees are still in flower here), the grated zest of an orange and the most scented rose petals I could find.
I planted out three more tea camellias (Camellia sinensis) this year but they are still small. It takes a whole lot of leaves to get any volume of dried tea so I doubt we will ever reach self sufficiency in tea but it is fun to try, in a homestead-y sort of fun way. You do need one of the proper tea camellia varieties, not just any old camellia and I have no idea how readily available they are on the market these days.
I quote again the Wikipedia article in answer to the question as to whether there are different camellias for different teas: “Camellia sinensis and its subspecies, Camellia sinensis var. assamica, are two major varieties grown today. White tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from one or the other, but are processed differently to attain varying levels of oxidation.” There are different selections of the species and some will have different characteristics, but the vast majority of tea sold in the world is indeed from Camellia sinensis.