Book Review of “Grow Your Own Tea”

Book Review of “Grow Your Own Tea”

Review written by Jonathan Burns, Tallahassee Nurseries Outdoor Manager, FNGLA FCHP Certified

Found in the Garden Showplace at Tallahassee Nurseries

Eating anything I grew myself fills me with a powerful, rewarding feeling. Even if I only manage to harvest a tiny vegetable from my garden, the taste, enhanced by all my hard work, is enhanced and magnified to the point where no store-bought veggie could ever compare. I count myself lucky to have experienced that homegrown joy many times with a cup of green tea. I still get excited every time I see the bright green elixir brewing in my clear glass teapot. Since I grew the leaves, I know they were grown in the safest and healthiest way possible. I know the recently processed tea will taste alive and fresh, delivering incredible flavor as well as a calming effect for my mind and body. I’ve been growing Tea Camellias for many years, but it wasn’t until I found the book “Grow Your Own Tea” by Christine Parks and Susan M. Walcott that I finally felt confident enough to process my first batch of tea. This book clearly explains everything you need to know about growing Tea Camellias in your home garden and processing the leaves into delicious, health-promoting tea in your home kitchen.

Many southern gardeners are surprised to find out that tea comes from a Camellia. Not just any Camellia will do, your showy large flowering japonicas and sasanquas won’t work for this. The species Camellia sinensis, commonly called Tea Camellia, provides the leaves for this special drink. Tea Camellias have handsome evergreen leaves and produce adorable small white flowers with golden yellow centers. Like most camellias, the plants grow happily in our climate with little care or attention. All types of “true tea” come from the leaves of the Tea Camellia, they are simply processed in different ways to produce the different flavors of black, green, white, and oolong tea.

“Grow Your Own Tea” goes into great depth describing the different properties of each type of tea and how to make them. The art of processing tea leaves is truly ancient. A quick internet search on the topic will deliver a slew of resources, some unbelievably complicated and designed for commercial producers, while others are so vague it seems they left out half the steps. Parks and Walcott find the perfect balance between simple and thorough with their instructions. They’ve even included a quick reference chart for each type of tea so you can quickly refresh your memory as you go.

I’ve been shocked by how easy it is to process my own leaves for green and black tea, once I finally got the proper instructions from Parks and Walcott. The steps take place over one day for green tea and two days for black tea, with each step taking a minimum of time or effort. It took me longer to process the first few batches, but I’m pretty quick now that I have more experience. Considering the value of the end product, I think it’s one of the best DIY garden products I can put my efforts into. I’m sure I’m not making the best tea in the world, after all, there are aficionados who devote their entire lives to that, but it tastes really good. The flavors are fresh and mild and the calming effects are significantly more pronounced than with run-of-the-mill, store-bought tea. I look forward to refining my tea making skills for years to come, but I’m also pleased and impressed with the results I’ve obtained as a novice. “Grow Your Own Tea” will give you the information you need to make a pleasing cup of tea, even if you’ve never tried it before.

While camellias of all types grow easily in Tallahassee, a productive Tea Camellia should be managed differently than an ornamental Camellia grown just for its blooms. “Grow Your Own Tea” is informed by the experience and wisdom of two incredibly knowledgeable authors. Their own experiences, plus contact with countless other tea growers (including everything from commercial to backyard enthusiasts) has illuminated the frequently made mistakes a novice is prone to make. After reading this book, I realized I had taken a number of missteps in my early Tea Cultivation. With the advice from Parks and Walcott I was able to quickly correct my errors, and my plants are more productive for the adjustments. Luckily, you can avoid those mistakes entirely by reading “Grow Your Own Tea” before you install your plants. In our climate, it really is easy to grow tea, and with the advice in this book you can do so like a pro.

Tea Camellias are a versatile landscape plant that thrive in our region. Their glossy evergreen leaves and adorable blooms make them an aesthetic asset to any landscape. When you consider the added bonus of making your own delicious and healthful tea, these plants become a must-have for any southern gardener. If you’d like to explore growing and processing your own tea at home, do yourself a favor and grab a copy or “Grow Your Own Tea”. It’s an easy, fun read that will tell you all you need to know about the amazing, beautiful, delicious, useful, and healthy Tea Camellia.

Ready to make your own tea? Watch our video on How to Grow Your Own Tea