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Gardening Report: Tea, it’s not just for sipping

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 3:44 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A while back we shared a story in which we learned how to grow tea plants inside the home. But there’s more to tea than just a refreshing beverage.

According to Jenny Tse, Owner of Sipping Stream Tea Company, one tea plant can create several different varieties of tea. “The camellia sinensis plant is this evergreen tea, like a tree. So this is a tree that can grow over 100 meters tall actually in the wild, like in rural parts of Taiwan and Thailand and in China. This plant actually turns into white tea, and then green tea, and black tea and pu’er. All these different types of tea are from this one plant, and actually how it’s processed is what transforms it - that oxidation processing, that manufacturing, that rolling process. It’s like taking an apple and bruising it on the outside, and when you cut into that apple its browner. Then when you leave it out for a long time it’s really really brown. That is exactly what oxidation does to the tea leaf, and changes it from category to category.”

And while it may take a bit of time and effort, Tse says it is possible for anyone to make their own tea at home. “You will need 14 pounds of fresh leaves in order to even make it worth it to change it into the stuff. But the easiest one to do at home is literally white tea. All you do is pick the leaf and you dry it - that’s it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big leaf. So if you had white peony it would be the larger leaf. Or if you have the tiny little tea buds on the top, that’d be silver needles. That’s it - pick it and air dry it. Green tea is essentially just picked tea, bruised a little bit, and then dried. You can put it in the dehydrator or however you want to do it, there’s many different ways you can do it.”

But there are other benefits and uses for tea besides being a relaxing beverage according to Tse. “Tea is great of course as a beverage. It’s the most popular beverage in the world next to water, and it also is really good for all sorts of health benefits. You can even use it for cooking! So if you wanted to harvest it and just cook it like a bok choy or a kale, I mean it’s this evergreen superfood. So you can actually cook stir fry with it. They do that in Taiwan. It’s also good for the general antioxidants that are in it, which is a general term. There’s tons of them. But one of the most powerful antioxidants that’s found in the tea plant is EGCG which protects every single cell in your body as like a barrier from free radicals from coming in and destroying it.”

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