My work in the Food Garden of The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) had more to offer in the afternoon. After lunch one option included digging and removing compacted gravel in the area that was shown last week in the blog; the area which, in future, will be turfed and treed and contain relaxing seats. Progress has been made since last week: Adam has made a good job with his cutting of the curved edges.Other volunteers got on with that heavy manual labour job.
One other alternative job was to weed – which I did for a short while.
Then a couple of us were introduced to the art, or is it the science, of tip picking the tea bushes – Camellia sinensis.
The top two tiny leaves and leaf bud, the new growth, were all we needed to collect.
With small containers that seemed large as we tip picked, we nipped and collected. We were slow but over time the tips became obvious and I could collect more – but we were in awe of all those women in Asian countries who stand up picking tea leaves all day, every day. After a couple of hours we had about a coffee mug full! I found this news article which contains an image of what should have been picked – mostly I was picking the central leaflet (not a technical term) but not the two leaves beside it. Interesting. Note to self for future harvesting – pick it all!
How to turn these leaves into drinkable tea: yes, it is possible to use the leaves as picked – either dry or green however apparently the tannin isn’t activated and so the brew will be particularly lack lustre. Adam showed us how – he grabbed a muslin bag and the tips were poured into the bag. The next step was to place the bag into a microwave oven for around 45-60 seconds on High to steam the tips.
Out from the microwave but still in the muslin bag, the job was to compress the soft flexible contents into a malleable ball and massage it until long after the heat had gone. I noticed that, as it cooled ,it seemed stickier and stickier. The whole process bruises the pickings to help activate the enzymes and release the flavours.
After about half an hour of mushing and smushing (our words), the green ball was removed from the muslin bag …and the pieces gently disentangled.Then the macerated leaves were laid out on paper towelling which lined a planting tray. Our tray will rest in the tool shed, until next Thursday when I will take a teapot so we can have our own tea ceremony. We will be drinking green tea. I hadn’t known until yesterday that black tea is fermented tea leaves. The things I learn! Wikipedia provides a summary here.
Without doubt this was another fascinating and successful day at the Food Garden. During previous afternoons when I have left the RTBG and walked to catch the bus, I have blogged about the Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo and the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. Yesterday’s delight were the Galahs wandering the ground and letting me watch them up close.
One more of the miracles of nature and a fitting end to a series of wonderful learning experiences! And, of course, the sky was blue and the sun shone all day – but you knew that didn’t you.