Team Tea: Caffeine, here we come!

January 16, 2010 | By | Comments (7)

Team Tea has, we’ll admit, been a little slow getting off the ground, but hey, cut us some slack. After all, there’s been a serious dearth of One Block caffeine around here…

Now, however, we have big news to share: We are the proud possessors of a trio of three-year-old tea bushes! It took a little searching; the Oregon farm we’d heard about did have some plants, but they were babies, only a year old. Since everything we’d read said that you shouldn’t start harvesting the leaves till the plant is three, we kept looking till we found a camellia nursery in North Carolina that had lots and lots of tea bushes (Camellia Forest Nursery, in Chapel Hill).

Now, you tea buffs out there probably already know this, but all true tea comes from one species of plant: Camellia sinensis. What was news to us was that there are different varieties; being in a Goldilocks mood, we ordered a small-leaf bush, a medium-leaf bush, and a large-leaf bush. A couple weeks later, three tall cardboard boxes arrived, each containing a slightly bedraggled plant—and, in one case, a mystery beetle that our county extension agent had to get tested, to make sure it wasn’t going to wreak havoc on Northern California. (Meanwhile, the bushes cooled their heels in my office.)

Bushes in boxes

Once the beetle was declared benign, our gardening saviors Julie and Johanna took charge of the bushes, lugging them outside to get them used to their new NC home (as opposed to their old NC one!), and eventually moving them into these lovely pots.

Plants in pots

It’s going to be a little while yet before we can harvest the first leaves, which will give us time to figure out how, exactly, we’re going to make tea out of them. Meanwhile, if you’re getting impatient, see if your local library has a copy of Jason Goodwin’s book A Time for Tea. It’s been out of print for a while, but Goodwin’s a fantastic, funny writer who makes the history of the tea trade (and the industry today) read like a mystery novel. (Which makes sense, given that he also writes mysteries.) And if anyone out there has ever picked and processed their own tea leaves, let us know—we need all the help we can get!

By Christine Ryan, Sunset Executive Editor


  1. #Unprocessed FAQ: Beer, Wine, Coffee, and other Beverages — Eating Rules

    […] for tea, check out Sunset Magazine’s One-Block Diet from a couple of years ago: They made their own tea, too. (they got a few plants, and apparently ended up with only enough tea leaves for a cup or two, but […]

    September 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm
  2. acekards

    I am glad to read this post.I will definitely read that book A Time for Tea..This is a good recommendation for me.Now I am very much interested in this book.Thank you for this good post.

    February 24, 2010 at 10:20 am
  3. jengod

    Good luck, Team Tea!

    Note, you have an extra http:// in the link to the tea book:

    Correct link should be:

    February 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm
  4. Dirty Girl Gardening

    How exciting… can’t wait to see update pics!

    February 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm
  5. Mimi

    Yeah!! I’m so happy you are doing this! I have toyed with the idea of researching how to acquire, grow and process tea for awhile. Now you can do it for me, lol!!

    February 13, 2010 at 1:05 am
  6. Matti

    I am happy that you included how the plants were packed. I am always interested and fascinated with packing of these delicate objects.

    Go Team Tea on a fab planting job!

    February 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm
  7. Margo True

    I find it amazing that tea can grow in Northern California. Who knew!

    February 12, 2010 at 2:10 am

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