It seems that there is a sudden— surge, if you will– of a press to become more and more localized. That somehow, this drive to become increasingly local means better, and that if it’s from your backyard, it can’t be wrong.
This is not the case with tea.
Often I get questions from customers at Kombuchick Bar about whether or not my teas are local. I pause for a moment, catch my breath, then begin to answer their question. It takes a moment for me to prepare, as I know the answer cannot be summed up in a one-word response.
Yes and no.
The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, grows best in tropical and subtropical climates, and Virginia has neither. Thus, it is not likely a successful crop of prize Camellia sinensis plants will grow anywhere remotely local (within 100-500 miles) of Virginia. However, it is possible to make very tasty herbal blend infusions from locally-sourced herbs.
When it comes to making kombucha, it is best to stick to the teas that come from tea regions in India and China (or, a South African Rooibos). Tea produced from this plant is the recommended go-to for those brewing the ‘booch hooch.
For personal herbal enjoyment, if you happen to be a locavore and want to keep it local and keep it simple, invest in a nice dehydrator. Dice and dry local fruits, and try your luck combining them with dried leaves of the following plants:
- bergamot (grows well in Virginia)
- mint (very hardy plant; grows well in most US East Coast regions)
- nettle (depending on where you live; some have found that it grows well in the US)
- sage (pineapple sage grows very well here in Hampton Roads)
- dandelion (all parts of the dandelion are edible; be careful when foraging: only forage for these and any edibles in a trusted area)
Experiment in your kitchen with what you find from your garden. Try tasting your steeped infusions before sweetening, to learn what you like and what you love. Some blends will work nicely; others won’t be as palatable. Research all you can about the herbs and fruits you plan to use, in order to learn their combining compatibilities.
What are some successful locally foraged tea blends that you’ve tried? Share with us by leaving a comment!