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Did you know that you can grow your own tea at home? We’re not talking about tea that you make from herbs, flowers, and other plants. It’s real tea, the real deal “Camellia sinensis”. While the majority of plants in the camellia family are decorative, the “sinensis” genus is where true tea leaves come from.

Choose Your Plant

The two main varieties of tea plants are from the same Camellia genus, but are not to be confused. Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is a Chinese tea plant valued for its green, white, and oolong teas. Its Indian counterpart Camellia sinensis var. assimica is where the black teas come from.

Most home growers choose the Chinese varieties for more than just the purported health benefits. These plants are much easier to grow, are a more manageable size, and are less susceptible to the cold than the Indian varieties. The bush is covered in small, fragrant flowers that are beautiful against the dark, shiny leaves.

In contrast, the assimica plants can grow fifty feet or higher and require a more tropical environment. Their leaves are proportionately larger and thicker as well. But, if you have your heart set on growing your own black tea, don’t let this discourage you. Gardeners in every type of climate do have success with both types of plants at some point.

Basic Needs

If you have a garden, a planter, or even just a good-sized pot, give your own tea plant a try. This hardy shrub grows well outside in gardening zones from 8-13 (approximately). Your camellia can also be sheltered in a greenhouse or building with south-facing windows in cooler climates.

The camellia genus of plants isn’t particular about its soil, sun, or shade needs. Like most of the common plants in your garden, they do prefer acidic conditions with several hours of sun. They will still thrive in the shade with poor soil as long as they aren’t competing with other plants for moisture. That said, they don’t have high water needs and are actually resilient during a drought situation. They just don’t like competition for that little bit of water.

Pests

Aphids, caterpillars, mites, and scales are common pests that often plague tea bushes. By using natural horticultural oil, you can eliminate these pests without harming the beneficial bugs. Horticultural oil is not harmful to humans or animals either.

Harvesting Your Tea

As with most good things, you must wait for your tea bushes to mature before harvesting them. A minimum of two years’ growth is required before you remove any leaves. It is actually recommended you wait until they are about four years old for any regular harvesting starts. At this time, you should be able to support your tea drinking habit easily.

To harvest the tea you will need to remove the bud and at least the two or three newest leaves from each shoot. Keep in mind that you don’t want to remove all of the shoots as you do need to allow for future growth.

Processing the Tea

Just as with grapes, how you process the tea once you’ve harvested it will determine what it turns into. The sinensis variety will provide green, oolong, and white tea while the assimica is where black tea comes from.

  • Black Tea – Black tea takes the longest to process, due in part to the larger, thicker leaves of the assimica plant/tree. Wilt the leaves and buds for about 12-16 hours or more, by leaving them on a tray in the shade or indoors. Using a cloth to roll the leaves and break them down is the most efficient method of bruising these leaves. This rolling and kneading process should continue until the juices are oozing from the wilted leaves. Once sufficiently bruised, allow the leaves to oxidize in a warm, dry place for another 12 hours. When the leaves have turned a reddish-brown color, you are ready to proceed directly to the drying stage below.
  • Green Tea – For green tea, wilt your buds and leaves either in the shade or indoors for approximately 6-8 hours. Once wilted, heat them in a dry frying pan for about 4 minutes to prevent further oxidation and to stop the enzymes from breaking them down further. When cooled, roll the leaves in your hands or a clean cloth in order to break them up and bruise further.
  • Oolong Tea – Wilt the leaves and buds as above, shaking them regularly. Once wilted, bruise them either by hand or by rolling in a clean cloth and then spread on a tray. Leave them on the tray for at least 30 minutes so they can darken before heating in a pan as above.
  • White Tea – White tea is the easiest and least processed of the four types. Once harvested the leaves and buds can be spread onto a tray and left alone in a shaded area out of the sun for a few days. When completely dry and wilted, follow the final step below.
Drying and Storage

The final step for processing each of the above tea types is the same. Place the leaves and buds on a baking sheet and dry in an oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25 minutes. The leaves must be completely dry for storage to ensure freshness and keep mold from forming.

Store your finished tea in an airtight, opaque container that also keeps light and moisture out. Keep the container in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

Now enjoy your tea!

So what is your favorite tea? Have you ever tried growing your own?

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10 Themes for the Perfect Bachelorette Party

Every great party starts with a fantastic theme. Whether you are planning a quiet day of relaxation for the bride-to-be or an evening of wild abandon, focusing on a theme will help your party plans fall into place.

These 10 ideas range from traditional to unconventional, and they are sure to spark your imagination when it comes to planning an amazing bachelorette party that you and the bride will always remember.

Slumber Party

Pretend you’re 15 again, and throw an old-fashioned overnight party. Make popcorn, order pizza, and rent movies you liked as a teenager. Take time to do each other’s nails and indulge in a game of truth or dare.

Before the party, gather the ingredients for some brightly colored cocktails. Depending on the games you choose to play, the movies you rent, and any planned surprises, you can make your slumber party as innocent or as raunchy as you like.

Remember that sleepovers last longer than the night. Have supplies on hand to make a big breakfast in the morning.

Lingerie Party

Combining a bachelorette bash with a lingerie shower can be fun. Ask guests to bring some sexy lingerie for the bride-to-be, and see whose gift can shock her. For a more adult event, guests can bring grown-up toys as well.

To get the evening started, ask each guest to bring panties that express her personality. Then ask the bride to determine which panties were brought by which guest.

Spa Party

Take the bride to a spa for a day of pampering. Enjoy massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures. You could also throw this party at home. If you have the money to spend, hire massage therapists to come to you.

For a less expensive option, set up some at-home spa treatment stations with homemade skin treatments to try on each other. See if you can borrow a massage chair and a home foot spa.

Ask friends who are great at nails to bring their supplies. Serve fancy cocktails and appetizers for guests to enjoy as they relax.

Wine Tasting

Book your group for a vineyard tour and wine tasting event. This choice is perfect for an upscale afternoon, especially for the bride who appreciates good wine.

Alternatively, you could buy several different kinds of wine to taste at home. Ask each guest to bring her favorite for everyone to try. If you aren’t wine experts, print out a guide to the proper way to sample wine.

Chartered Boat

Take your guests out on the water in a rented boat. Opt for a party boat, a luxurious yacht, or a relaxing catamaran. Some boating services will offer drinks and food, while others will require you to bring your refreshments.

You can save money by making reservations for your group on a touring boat rather than chartering the whole vessel yourself. Some short cruises will have dancing and other entertainment.

If the bride-to-be is less of a party girl and more into the outdoors, you might want to reserve space on a fishing boat and try catching your dinner.

Shooting Range

Take your gun loving group for an adventure at a shooting range. A guide will teach each guest how to shoot a weapon correctly, and then you will have a chance to test your skills.

You can also try your skills at a shooting range that allows you to fire automatic weapons and other guns that you might not have a chance to experience anywhere else. Just remember to do any drinking after your visit to the shooting range.

Dance Class

Head to a local dance studio, and reserve some time with a professional dance teacher. Learn sexy salsa dancing, country line dancing, or ballroom techniques.

For a sexier party, take a class in pole dancing. When you’ve finished your lessons, take the party to a club where you can try out your new skills.

Race Across Town

Divide guests into pairs or teams, and lead them on a crazy night through your hometown. Each group should get a clue pointing them from the first location to the next. At the second place, arrange for them to get a clue for the third one. When everyone has made their way through retails stores, playgrounds, car washes, or any other creative destination, send them to your house or a restaurant where the party will continue.

Comedy Club

Bring on the laughs by spending the evening at a comedy club. If you make it clear by your appearance that you are a bachelorette party, the bride-to-be is likely to get plenty of attention from the stage.

If you have budding comediennes among your friends, attend an open mic night and encourage each other to participate. That can be an especially fun evening when combined with karaoke.

Camping

Appreciate nature and chill out under the stars on a camping trip. Borrow a camper or set up tents, and spend the evening laughing and bonding over a campfire. Ask musicians in your group to bring guitars for a sing-a-long, and don’t forget the marshmallows.

Not all bachelorette parties are the same, and you can throw the perfect party for the bride-to-be you love. Take her interests, personality, and comfort into account as you consider just the right theme for a pre-wedding celebration she will look back on with joy for the rest of her life.


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