I’ve always wanted my own tea plant. Being a complete teaophile I’ve tinkered with teabags and then discovered the delights of loose leaf tea, but this has never completely satisfied my urge to make my own cup of tea from scratch.
Thank goodness for ebay. Late last year a ‘tea plant’ Alert led me to purchase two six-inch high tea plants at £7 each. Now I need to work out how to turn them into a cup of tea.
When picking off the leaves and only remove the top two leaves and a bud from the end of each shoot (these are the tenderest and tastiest as PG Tips also tells us). Twenty-five tea leaves are needed to make one cup of tea. But before we do that the leaves need to be aired and cooked first to release tea-tasting chemicals.
Spreading the bright green leathery leaves on a cake rack overnight is the first part of the process. In the morning the now limp and darker coloured leaves are pliable enough to be rolled between the palms, mimicking the action of tea rolling machines used on commercial tea estates. Hand pressure and the rolling action bruises the leaves exposing the leaf sap, air then oxidises the sap and turns it into one that tastes like tea. A chemical reaction is going on making all those lovely tea tasting polyphenols.
More tea chemicals are produced if the leaves are moved to warm and humid environment for a couple of hours. The bathroom is a good place particularly if the room is warm and steamy. The now brown leaves still won’t be good enough to be put in the teapot though. They still need a good roasting.
A hot unoiled wok or large frying pan is best used for this. Swishing the leaves around will prevent them from burning and after a couple of minutes the leaves will be satisfactorily blackened. The finished leaves can be put straight into a waiting teapot. After soaking the leaves in freshly boiled water for five minutes you’ll be able to enjoy that first cup of home made tea.