November is when the tea bush drops its hazelnut-sized seeds and withdraws into winter hibernation. It is the last hurrah of the growing season in the northern hemisphere for Camellia sinensis.
As my tea plants recede into protection mode from the harsh winter temperatures, I lift my head up for a moment and restart my search for yet another hardy varietal that will hopefully end up living out its productive life in British Columbian soil.
This year, I am in search of the highest of high-grown Darjeeling seeds. As one would expect with any type of plant, the more extreme the conditions in which it can thrive, the tougher and more weather resistant the species should be. Now nobody has actually confirmed this to be the case (not directly to me anyway), but common sense and a little horticultural wisdom seem to suggest this could very well be true.
It is quite well known that the Darjeeling region was cultivated with the Chinese varietal, sinensis sinensis, after many failed attempts with sinensis assamica. Those bushes that originated in China have proven to be a tougher species than those I now have growing, which are unfortunately sinensis assamica.
If you recall from previous posts, my tea-cultivation experiment fired up rather quickly last winter with 300 sprouted seeds that had me leaping for joy. In the ensuing months, after frying half in direct sunlight one blistering weekend, then over-watering the remaining half, I am down to about 50 plants that range in size from five inches to a few that are over a foot high.
I cut my tea-growing teeth on these first seedlings and now that I have purchased a greenhouse and understand a wee bit more about the ideal conditions in which to raise young tea plants, I am thoroughly excited about Round 2. How could a tea lover with a self-professed green thumb not be, I ask?