The tea Camellia is in full bloom! One of the thrills of fall! I love the contrast between the simple, white and yellow blossoms and the deep green foliage.
Most folks don't realize that tea - yes, the "real" tea (Camellia sinensis), will grow here but it will and it is a delight.
I didn't pick any leaves this spring but perhaps next spring I'll take another try at creating my own green tea. Right now, I'm happy to enjoy the beauty.
The Virginia Camellia Society has had Camellia sinensis for sale at their show in the past - in fact, I remember them being the first place I ever got tips on turning my C. sinensis bush into a cup of tea !- so if you covet a tea plant of your own, you should try the upcoming sale at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. For details, click here: VCS Fall Show and Sale.
The best info I've found online giving directions on processing your own tea is here:
About.com - Growing Your Own Tea. If anyone has more or better info, please share!
A History of Tea in America links to a really interesting article that Martha Bowes wrote for teamuse.com about 10 years ago. It traces tea from indigenous plants found in the northeast all the way through the Charleston Tea Plantation that flourished as one of the few, if not the only, independent commercial tea plantation in the United States. There were a lot of us who loved that tea and the idea that it was a sort of "family business" rather than a corporation. Alas, things went awry and the plantation was sold in 2003 to the Bigelow tea company for over a million dollars (not a bad investment, it appears). Brief synopsis of the plantation's history is here: Charleston Tea Company
Now... growing coffee? Well, that's been a lot tougher! One thing about all this self-sufficiency? I almost never grouse about the price on the products (like tea and coffee) that I love. There's nothing like trying to do it yourself to make you appreciate having others grow and process it for you!