I’ve seen quite a few column inches devoted recently to growing your own tea. It’s a topic that’s naturally very appealing to our tea-loving, gardening-obsessed nation. Did you know that tea comes from a kind of camellia, not too different to those we grow in our gardens? Or that in the UK we drink 165 MILLION cups of tea every day?
It’s an attractive idea – step outside the back door and pluck a few leaves for an antioxidant-rich, warming and comforting brew. But – a word of warning before you reach for the nursery catalogue and start planning on ditching PG Tips for good. It’s not as simple as all that…
Firstly, tea plants are fussy, they don’t like cold winters, limy soil, or tap water if you live in most of the south or east of the country. And once you’ve harvested your leaves, they then have to be steamed, then rinsed and then dried – and also fermented if you want black tea. Personally, I prefer to leave it to the experts – people like Bohea Teas – who gather delicious teas from around the world and deliver to your door (their Jasmine Pearl tea is divine). But I digress:
Down to a tea
Luckily for those of us who don’t live on the mist-swathed tropical mountainsides that the tea plant likes, there are plenty of other plants that can be used to make tea – here are two of my all-time favourites:
Chamomile is a pretty plant with cheerful daisy-like flowers. It’s easy to grow in a sunny spot, and makes a wonderful sweet tea that is a perfect bedtime drink. Chamomile flowers are loved by bees and butterflies too.
Mint tea is a classic Moroccan drink, perfect to refresh you on a hot day or after a heavy meal. Just pop a few leaves into a mug, and brew just as you would a normal cup of tea (but don’t add milk!). Mint is easy to grow, but remember it likes more water than most other herbs, and it will tolerate some shade too. Put it in a big pot by the back door so it’s easy to get to.