Garden Mastery: Tea, the world’s most beloved drink, could start as shrub in your own yard

It may come as a surprise, but you can grow and make your own tea right in your backyard or balcony here in San Diego County.

Traditional tea is harvested from evergreen shrubs camellia sinensis, tea tree.However, as we know it today, tea is camellia sinensis From shrubs or fruit infusions, flowers and roots.

The history of tea began in China around 2737 BC. camellia sinensis Wait for the servant to boil the water and purify it. When Shen Nung, also a renowned herbalist, decided to try an infusion accidentally created by his servant, the leaves of the tree blew into the water. It was said to inspire and detoxify the emperor. However, it wasn’t until the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD) that tea became a true beverage.

Camellia was cultivated in Chinese and Japanese gardens for centuries before it was found in Europe and the West. During the First Opium War (1839-1942), Britain’s tea supply was threatened. The British transported tea plants from China to India in mobile greenhouses in which they sowed tea seeds, and then germinated them on their way to India (Assam).

In addition to using tea leaves, camellia sinensis The plant produces beautiful white flowers.

(Barb Sands)

Camellia arrived in America from England in 1797. That’s when Colonel John Stevens brought the plants and flowers into Hoboken, New Jersey as part of an effort to add them to attractions within his park Elysian He Fields Recreation. The British East India Company flourished in England with the expansion of the tea trade in the late 1800s. By 1819, at least 25 camellias had bloomed in England. After Britain introduced tea to Ceylon (a former colony, now Sri Lanka), Britain became the world’s number one tea producer. Tea has been Britain’s national drink for over 200 years.

True tea is made from its leaves camellia sinensis, Evergreen shrub. Green, black, white and oolong tea all come from this plant. C. sinensis was. sinensis It is most commonly used to make white, green and oolong teas. camellia sinensis The leaves are small and the shrub prefers cool climates and high altitudes. C. sinensis was. Asamika It has large leaves and prefers subtropical climates, warmth and humidity.

camellia sinensis It blooms small white flowers and prefers well-drained sandy soil and a sunny location. Camellia scales, or brown scales, are its pests. Camellia scales are commonly found under the leaves and, if detected early, can be controlled through the use of insecticide soaps, good air circulation in the plant, and proper pruning. Please consider.

It is possible to grow tea in the United States, but only in hardiness zones 7 through 9. San Diego County is in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8, 9, and 10. camellia sinensis Procure plants from seeds, rooted cuttings, or nurseries in spring or fall. It is a large shrub that likes shade and produces small white flowers from October to December. Acidic soil with a pH of 6.5 or less is suitable. Prune only after the plants have flowered. Patience is required as it can take up to three years before young shoots or just a few leaf tips can be harvested.

Once the plant is harvested, the processing of the leaves determines whether it will be black, green, white or oolong tea. White tea is made using only unopened leaf buds. The light green and most tender leaves are used to make green tea (only minor processing). Oolong tea is made by roasting, rolling and oxidizing the tips of the young leaves. Finally, tea is made from the leaves. camellia sinensis was. Asamika It oxidizes the plant and leaves to bring out the rich and bold flavor of the tea.

Teas made with herbs, flowers, bark, roots and fruits are called tisanes, French for herbal infusions. Don’t be fooled: camellia sinensis The leaves contain caffeine (more of a stimulant than coffee), while tizan does not contain caffeine.

Herbal tea sampler. Gardeners can grow their own plants for herbal teas similar to this one.

Herbal tea sampler. Gardeners can grow their own plants for herbal teas similar to this one.

(Barb Sands)

Numerous leaves from various herbs and flowers can be used to make homemade tea. Use sage, holy basil, lemon verbena, lavender mint, or chamomile, dandelion, jasmine, and calendula flowers.

All of these can also be grown in containers. The best place to store tea is a glass jar or a dry can with a lid. Plant and harvest herbs, dry (without heating the baking sheet in the oven for several days), and remove for storage or gift giving. Most of the harvest here in San Diego begins between April and September to allow the leaves to dry.

Americans are not growers of this famous evergreen shrub, but 80% of us are tea drinkers, mostly iced or plain black. Now make your own tea: Boost your immunity, calm your stomach, plant your sleeptime garden, and reap the many benefits of tea here in San Diego County.

A UCCE Master Gardener in San Diego County since 2014, Sands is an avid tea lover and enjoys growing herbs and flowers in containers to make his own teas.

For questions about home gardening, contact the UCCE Master Gardeners on the San Diego County Hotline at (858) 822-6910 or email

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