Gardening Report: Fairbanks tea shop starts tea farm, offers tips to grow your own

Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 3:49 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 3:51 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Fairbanks tea shop Sipping Streams Tea Company will be starting their own tea farm and is offering tips to help you grow your own.

According to Jenny Tse, Owner of the business, the farm is collaboration with the Chena Hot Springs. Tse explained, “At our tea farm for Sipping Streams Tea Company, it will actually be grown in collaboration with Chena Hot Springs. This will be grown outside in a greenhouse in the soil. The tea plant itself actually needs to be in the dirt. It can’t be hydroponically grown as people know Chena has, but it actually has to be grown in the dirt so the roots aren’t sitting in still water. It needs to be very well drained. A lot of pure light is what you would need, and it can withstand snow and winter, but not 30 below - and that’s why we’re doing this in collaboration with Chena Hot Springs, because their outdoor greenhouses are controlled by the geothermal heat also.”

There will be several different varieties of tea planted, but Tse says they all come from the same plant. “We have the camellia sinensis plant, and there’s actually several varietals in here. The camellia sinensis plant is actually an evergreen tree so these leaves will never fall off naturally on their own, and the different varietals we have in here will make white tea, green tea, oolong tea, [and] black tea. It’s one plant, and it’s hundreds of varietals that make those different types of tea actually. It’s the processing that makes them different.”

But you don’t need a geothermal greenhouse to start growing your own tea plants. Tse said, “People can actually grow their own tea plant year round inside their house. This is actually how the idea started. I teach a tea certification program, and for all my students I gifted them a tea plant, and you can actually grow it in your own house. I suggest the bathroom because it’s more humid. It doesn’t need to be watered all the time, it needs to be somewhere where it won’t be super dry like Fairbanks is. So you would prefer to have humidity and you don’t want the roots to be sitting in water. So well drained. If anything you take a misting bottle, and every time I’m in the bathroom I mist my tea plants. That keeps them nice and supple, and at any time literally these leaves can be picked. Now don’t pick the whole tea plant, because it’s got to have something for photosynthesis, like at least one leaf.”

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