Solar recently produced our first cup of home-grown tea. To begin the process we harvested the tea leaves from our greenhouse early in the day, when they were at the peak of flavor. When harvesting, try to select the younger leaves and stems, along with the buds, if your plant is flowering. To the best of your ability, make sure the plants are free of any pesticides or insects. Next, cut your leaves at a 45 degree angle at the Y of the branch and lay them on a paper towel for about 30 minutes to begin drying.
You will then want to rinse your leaves and buds with fresh, cool water and remove any brown edges. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and place your leaves on a cookie tray (be sure to separate the leaves from the stems). Leave the door of your oven slightly open to allow the moisture from your leaves escape. The drying process generally takes between 15 and 20 minutes. Your leaves should be green and crispy when dried, check on them occasionally to assure that they do not burn.
When the leaves are dried you can place them in an air tight container whole or you can crumble them into small pieces. This process can also be used when drying herbs. To make a cup of tea, measure 1 teaspoon of your dry tea leaves, place them into a tea ball, and allow them to soak in hot water for 1 to 5 minutes.