Camellia sinensis is the broadleaf evergreen shrub that provides the dried foliage needed to make the tea beverage. Pruning of the shrubs promotes fresh, tender new shoots and leaves for harvesting. Pinching off the new leaves, usually the youngest two to three leaves per shoot, and then drying and crushing them yields a deliciously flavored tea.
Prune the tips of at least 50 percent of all branches on the tea shrub in late winter. Wait until newly planted shrubs are at least 3 years old before drastic pruning in anticipation of tea leaf harvest.
Allow the new shoots to appear from the pruned branch tips, letting them grow so that two to four young leaves are unfurling.
Pinch off the tender new shoots with the youngest two to three leaves and collect them in a wicker basket.
Place the harvested shoots into a steam basket, and let it sit over boiling water for 45 to 60 seconds.
Dry the steam-treated leaves for 45 minutes in a dry oven at about 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the tea leaves from the oven and gently roll them with a pastry roller for 25 minutes, bruising and crushing the plant tissues. Or roll the palm of your hands over the leaves to roll and bruise them.
Dry the tea leaves once again, this time in an oven or warm room where temperatures are around 150 degree Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
Crush the leaves as needed to brew fresh green tea with boiling water and a tea infuser or strainer.
Harvest more fresh shoot and leaves of tea every 10 to 14 days on the shrub, as new growth appears after your previous pinching.