REAL TEA

Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Your Garden - by Mary Hack­ett at Her­itage Haven

Al­most five thou­sand years ago, le­gend has it, some leaves from a na­tive shrub, Camel­lia sinen­sis drifted into the Chi­nese Em­peror’s ket­tle of boil­ing wa­ter. The em­peror savoured the fra­grance and del­i­cate fla­vor of the in­fu­sion with de­light. Con­fi­dently be­liev­ing it must pos­sess medic­i­nal qual­i­ties, the em­peror called this happy dis­cov­ery tea and made it an es­sen­tial part of ev­ery day.

Since the em­peror’s dis­cov­ery so long ago, th­ese days it would not be con­sid­ered rev­o­lu­tion­ary to flirt with the orig­i­nal recipe. The Chi­nese have im­proved fine green tea with the ad­di­tion of jas­mine flow­ers, and the Moroc­cans with fresh tips of spearmint. Some tea-drinkers love to add a hint of gin­ger or or­ange zest to their favourite brew. For me, there is lemon ver­bena, sage, pep­per­mint, rose­mary and thyme ... gen­tle com­pan­ions that wait in my herb gar­den, ready to blend del­i­cately with my green tea and mak­ing the cus­tom of tak­ing tea an even more plea­sur­able and up­lift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Camel­lia sinen­sis is an at­trac­tive plant with shiny ever­green leaves and sweetly scented white flow­ers. Al­though a tall grower in warm, trop­i­cal cli­mates, in tem­per­ate zoned gar­dens this real tea bush grows well as a con­tainer plant, in hedges, or as part of a bor­der. I like to keep mine neatly pruned at shoul­der height by giv­ing it a slight trim each Spring. To en­joy a cup of the Em­peror’s own brew, I have no hes­i­ta­tion in pluck­ing a cou­ple of ten­der leaves from top or side shoots at any time of the year and in­fus­ing the leaves in a cup of hot wa­ter for five min­utes.

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