Friday, September 24, 2010

The Tea Garden

By Jess Hodges

I can't be the only person who worries about the distance my tea has to travel to reach me. We hear a lot about food miles these days but it's important to remember the drink miles too. Black tea isn't something I could ever give up completely but I can certainly cut back. The problem is what to replace it with?

If you want to be really environmental and even mitigate some of the damage done by the tea you do drink then you could grow your own alternatives.

Creating a tea garden is incredibly easy, even if you don't have much space a couple of pots on a window sill will go a long way to meeting your needs. Most of the plants commonly used in tisanes need very little care and attention and once established in your patch will keep you well supplied for years to come.

Perhaps the two most rewarding plants to grow are mint and camomile. They both produce delicious, popular teas, give a far better result when picked fresh and grow easily and abundantly. Camomile in particular can be a weed, in my experience the best way to cultivate a huge crop of it is to try and keep it out of a garden! Growing your own gives you the chance to experiment with different varieties and to try other herbal infusions as well. Lemon balm and lemon verbena are both extremely good. You're also likely to find a surprising number of possible tea sources already growing in your garden. Nettles are hardly likely to be missed and the resultant tea is a good cure for hayfever.

If you want to produce a true tea garden why not incorporate a seat in the middle to sit and enjoy the fruits of your labours and reflect on the fact that every cup of home grown tea you drink is a good deed for the world.