Viewing: growing tea
February 16, 2018
I’ve always loved to travel but I’ve never gotten the opportunity to do much traveling in my life. I’ve taken a few smaller trips, but not too many longer trips and definitely not too many trips to faraway places. I would have loved to do some backpacking in my youth, but I just didn’t have the money or the time.
I did take one amazing trip in my life, though. That was a trip to Asia. Back then I was still a big coffee drinker, so I loved trying great coffees in Indonesia (the main island is actually called Java!) and in Vietnam, where I tried the weasel dropping coffee.
Since I got to see several of the main countries in Asia, that means I also got to tour the biggest tea producers. I spent a week each in India, China and Japan. I know those aren’t all the tea producing countries in Asia, but those are the biggest three.
My favorite among those three tea growing nations was Japan. It is the smallest, but is by far the best to travel. It is clean, safe and everything just works. The people are also very friendly and not at all pushy. And that is one of the biggest drawbacks of the other two. The people in China and India are very pushy and even though you get some great tea there, the whole experience is marred a bit by the filth and the aggressiveness of the people.
Even the tea, although it can be amazing, is not always that great. There are a lot of scammers who will sell you very low quality tea and try to get a very high price for it. That is a big problem. You can never really trust a label or a store in China or India. Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can easily end up drinking bad tea. Luckily, I know how to recognize good quality tea leaves, so I could catch it when they tried to sell me crap. Many people can’t and end up drinking bad tea.
In Japan you do not have this problem that is why it was my favorite country for traveling and also for drinking tea. It was also the best place for touring tea plantations. I took tea plantation tours in all the countries, but only in Japan did I feel like they actually enjoyed having me there, apart from just wanting my money.
The other countries just wanted me to pay and they gave me a standard tour and then tried to sell me souvenirs and overpriced, low quality tea. In Japan they took the time to explain everything and really show me around their tea gardens. They even took me indoors and showed me their tea growing operation there and they also showed me their outdoor operation.
They even showed me some areas where they were using grow lights, which, as you know, is something I’m very interested in, at the moment. I’ve gotten into growing tea with grow lights indoors myself, so I really enjoyed seeing that in Japan. They really only do it to start seedlings. In this case they were using fluorescent grow lights, but I’ve heard of other farms using LED grow lights as well. Either way, just the fact that they did this was highly interesting to me. It’s another reason why really loved touring the Japanese tea gardens most of all.
I really wish I could’ve done more traveling, but this one trip was pretty amazing. I know a lot of people don’t ever get to take even one trip like this, so I do feel very lucky. I got to try some of the best coffee and some of the best tea in the world. I do still hope to make it to Africa someday, mainly for the music, but they also grow a ton of tea in Kenya.
If you are one of the other lucky people that get to take trips, and you ever find yourself in one of these Asian countries, definitely take a tour of a tea growing region. Even in China and India, the tours are pretty good and very informative. They just pale in comparison to the ones in Japan, that is all.
February 4, 2017
In my previous post I mentioned that I had set up a grow tent in which I was going to start growing tea. I also mentioned I would follow up with a post on my lighting system and the rest of the equipment I got to pursue this endeavor. That was over a year ago.
It’s been a really long time, but better late than never, right? I’m finally getting around to writing the promised post. I’m really sorry for the long long delay, but it’s here now and hopefully it will help you.
So after I got my small grow tent in the mail, I first just put a couple of regular light bulbs in it. I wanted to get started growing right away and I didn’t really want to bother with researching, and then getting, real grow lights. Tea doesn’t flower, so most lights can actually grow this plant.
If you don’t know what flowering means, most plants have several stages of growth, the main ones being vegging and flowering. During vegging the plant simply grows up. During this time they need a lot of light with a bluish tint. Sunlight during the daytime has exactly this. A lot of artificial lighting has this to.
Fluorescent lights are especially good for this growth stage. Of course you can also use lighting such as metal halide or LED. These are much more expensive, though. That is why, if you have a plan that does not flower, you’re probably best off just going with fluorescent lighting.
Flowering refers to the final stages of growth, when the plants actually sprout buds and flowers, and in many cases fruits. In this stage they need much more red light. This is the light you get when the sun is lower on the horizon, during autumn, for example. This is why most plants flower during this time of the year.
With artificial lighting, fluorescent lights do have red spectrum light, but they aren’t very powerful. Most plants don’t flower as efficiently as they could under fluorescent lighting. That is why most growers use high-pressure sodium bulbs or powerful LED lights.
Since I’m growing tea though, I obviously do not need to worry about the flowering stage. For this reason I decided to go with fluorescent lights. I considered LED lighting at first, but soon realized how expensive a quality LED light is. And I didn’t want to get a cheap one that was made in China, because I had read a lot of horror stories about those.
In the end I decided on a line of fluorescent lights called AgroBrite. It is made by a company called Hydro farm. These fluorescent lights don’t cost much at all and are very well rated on sites like Amazon.
My light arrived after about a week and it was incredibly easy to install in my little grow tent. I use the supplied hangers to hang it from the ceiling and popped the bulbs into place. Then I plugged it in and that was it. Setting it up couldn’t get any easier.
Since my tent is small, I only put two tea plants underneath the fluorescent light. So far they’re growing really well, and I think I will actually be able to harvest some tea leaves in another month or two. I’m really excited about that.
Currently I’m reading up on how to dry tea leaves and also how long to ferment them for the different types of tea. Actually, I shouldn’t say ferment. People use that word a lot, but actually you’re just oxidizing the leaves. This is what creates the different types of tea, from white tea to green tea to yellow to oolong tea to black tea to pu-erh tea.
Personally, I want to start making just green tea and black tea and maybe some oolong tea since it’s right in the middle. The others are a bit difficult to make, though I am toying with the idea of harvesting the leaves when they’re very young and making some high-quality white tea or black tea, similar to golden monkey tea. We’ll see about that.
I’m really looking forward to this first harvest and I hope it is a success. If it is, I’m seriously considering getting another grow tent and expanding my operation. Maybe I can even sell the tea and make the money back that I spent on the tent and the florescent light. We’ll see.