This weekend my mother and I drove to North Carolina to visit a tea farm. I took the afternoon off work Friday so we could drive up. We stayed in a Holiday Inn and Saturday morning we headed to Chapel Hill NC – Camillia forest (http://www.camforest.com) to look at tea plants. I’ve been telling mom for a few years that she ought to put in tea plants. Mom has talked of having a screen of bushes, tea shrubs can grow up to 6 feet tall – a great screen.
I was so excited. We met Christine there and she let us visit with her around the tea bushes as they finished their final harvest of the year. She had about eight rows of tea plants, each row having somewhere around ten bushes (I’m guessing). Christine was working on the small-leaf tea plants. The name is as creative as it sounds- they are called small leaf because their leaves are smaller than the large leaf tea plant leaves!
Mom was asking horticultural questions like growing rate and root structure. I was able to geek out about the different types of processing for tea types. For those that don’t know – the simplest explanation is as follows:
White tea is the least processing. There is no bruising of the leaves and only the youngest of leaves can be used to be a proper white tea.
Green tea has a little bruising before the leaves are processed for tea.
Oolong is always described as being as much art as science. It requires more processing than green tea, carefully baking the leaves after bruising them JUST enough.
Black tea is the most processing but the easiest. You bruise the leaves a bunch. You almost can’t over-dry it. You can over-bake (of course?) but really it’s pretty difficult.
So mom ended up buying 3 tea plants. I decided to wait until spring to buy my own plant. I’m planning a trip to Baltimore/D.C. come spring and on my way home it would make an awesome place to stop. Since I’ll be looking at growing in a pot at least for a few years (probably) I don’t want to stress a plant just before winter. But now I know what to expect.