Franklinia alatamaha

If you lived in West Virginia 50 years ago and your mother asked you to pick some leaves from the "tea Tree" to make tea, what plant would you go to?

I was surprised at the answer we found, Franklinia.

A client asked us that question and we started looking for the answer. In cold West Virginia Tea Camellia would die from winter kill and it's not a tree, so it wasn't that plant.

Franklinia was used as a tea and it was very popular with those who knew how to use it. It's height about 10 > 25' and width 6 > 15' puts it in a small tree category and it's height makes it easy to harvest. Franklinia is an American native plant and is related to the tea genus, Theaceae.
Franklinia was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin by Botanist John and William Bartram in 1756. They traveled from Philadelphia and found the plant growing along the Altamaha River in GA. The tea from Franklinia is decaffeinated naturally and that makes it healthier than processed decaffeinated.

Franklinia has great fall color. The glossy leaves turn vivid orange to red in the fall. Flowers are summer blooming till frost and are white, resembling tea camellia. Blooms are present while tree is turning its attractive fall color. Use in the landscape as a specimen native tree. Zones 6 - 9, doing best in 6 - 7. Moist, well drained soil and full sun to partial shade are its location requirements.

Use the leaves fresh or dried.

Plant Characteristics
Pest Resistance Excellent
Disease Resistance Excellent
Drought Tolerance Good
Heat Tolerance Good
Humidity Tolerance Excellent
Sun Tolerance Good
Wet Soil Tolerance Fair
Shade Tolerance Good
No Spray Excellent
Salt Tolerance Poor
Fresh for Kids Good
Deer Resistance Fair
Thorns No
Plant Type Tree
Soil Type Adaptable
Edible Type Leaf
Self Fertile Yes
This information is accurate to the best of our knowledge, comments/opinions are always welcome
Tea Camellia Sinensis

Cut off twigs with 2-3 of the younger fresher tippy leaves (first flush) then pull off the individual leaves. This also prunes the bush and encourages new growth.

Lay the leaves out on a sheet of paper in a warm place for 24 hours to wither and lose about 40% of their moisture.

Rolling and Drying
Japanese Style Green Tea - Roll the leaves long ways as tightly as possible between both hands to produce long twist of whole leaf. Place on a sheet of foil in a warm oven (below 100 degrees Celsius, 245 degrees Fahrenheit) for a maximum of 5 minutes. This dries the leaf and stops further fermentation. Do not burn the tea!

Orthodox Indian Tea - Roll the leaves in a circular motion using both hands. press as hard as possible to crush and break the leaves. Put the leaves in a paper bag for a day or two to ferment and lose some of their 'greenness' and develop a drier 'tea character'. Remove any stalk and stem, roll briefly and dry on a sheet of foil in warm oven (below 100 degrees Celsius, 245 degrees Fahrenheit) for a maximum of 5 minutes. Do not burn the tea!

Both of these processing methods maintain the leaf size and produce a light tea with natural aroma. One cannot roll the leaves hard enough at home to get a dark strong tea. Place a few leaves in a pot, or Chinese style in a bowl, add boiling water and allow to brew. The liquor should be pale and refreshing. Good Luck!

Aftercare - Trim as require. The best tea is made from freshly formed young leaves.

The Camellia Sinensis or Tea Plant is an elegant, hardy evergreen shrub with small white jasmine like flowers. It is slow growing and best kept to about 4' tall by pruning. It likes reasonably well drained neutral to slightly acid soil in sun or semi-shade, or plant in a container using an ericaceous lime-free compost.

Easy Tea
Pick young leaves. Dry them and store them in a jar. To use, simply bring water to a boil. Turn off stove. Put some leaves in and let them steep. It's that easy.
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