NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

January 29, 2014

Hot stuff: Grow tea in your garden

When temperatures fall, there’s nothing better than a piping-hot cup of tea.

And as craft and organic tea seeps into the mainstream, tea gardens are becoming a popular way for brew lovers to bypass the store and enjoy the benefits of herbal tea without additives or preservatives.

“It just tastes and smells better,” says chef Kimmy Tang, who snips mint, lavender and lemongrass from her garden for herbal teas at her 9021Pho restaurants in Los Angeles.

“I also know that it’s 100 percent organic. I don’t use any chemicals to help them grow, and I can taste the difference.”

It may sound daunting, but British gardener and author Cassie Liversidge says many tea garden staples may already be at your fingertips.

“Honeysuckle, mint, rosemary. They’re all quite common plants, but can be turned into tea,” says Liversidge, author of the forthcoming book “Homegrown Tea: An Illustrated Guide to Planting, Harvesting and Blending Teas and Tisanes.”

She and other tea gardeners offer the following tips to get your feet wet:

Growing

First and foremost, no sprawling English estate is required here.

Tea gardens come in many forms, and don’t even need to be in the ground. Tang grows her herbs in a vertical garden hanging on a wall behind her restaurants, while other city dwellers cramped for space use pots and other containers.

All you need is dirt, water and some seeds.

“A great way to get started is to buy a plastic indoor sun garden at Lowe’s or Home Depot, along with the seeds and pieces of dirt that expand with water,” says McCollonough Ceili, a 26-year-old author who grows lavender, sage, mint and other herbs outside her kitchen window in Tennessee.

Liversidge recommends easy-to-grow plants like mint, lavender or chamomile for beginners.

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