We are a nation of tea drinkers, in fact we drink more tea per head of population than any other nation in the world. To this day all tea, green or black, enjoyed the world over comes from the same plant Camellia sinensis. It is a close relative of Camellia japonica which grows so well in gardens all over Ireland. Camellia sinensis comes from the cool damp mountains of China, far from being a tropical plant it actually grows in a climate very similar to our own. The tea grown in India is Camellia sinensis var. assamica which does indeed need a warmer climate, while the tea we buy in the supermarkets is often a blend of both types. All that tea needs to grow and thrive is a bright sunny spot and slightly acidic soil so if you can grow Camellia, Rhododendron and Azaleas you can also grow tea. If, like me, you are gardening on soil that is more alkaline you can replace the soil with ericaceous compost or better still grow Tea plants in pots. Tea plants are totally hardy, are relatively disease free and will survive down to -10C. By continually picking the leaves you will produce a nice bushy plant. For ease of picking you should only allow the tea plant to grow to 1.5 metres. So how do you get the Tea leaves I hear you say? When new shoots appear in the spring, this is called a flush, pick the new growth which is the two smallest leaves and the bud for your tea. Growing outside you should get four flushes per year, in a greenhouse or conservatory maybe six or more all depending on the sun and temperature. Once you have plucked your new growth, you have tea. The harvest is that simple. What you do with the harvest determines whether you make green or black tea either way the process takes only hours. When you receive your plants from Mr Middleton we will supply fully detailed notes on how to grow and make delicious black tea so loved by us Irish or indeed the much in vogue trendy green tea.
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