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Grow what you drink with this tea workshop at Camellia Tea Gardens

These workshops are perfect for tea enthusiasts to start out their tea-growing journey.

As midterm season ramps up, drain your stress with a celebration of tranquility and sustainability through the Camellia Forest Tea Gardens' planting workshop Sunday. 

The "Grow Your Own Tea" workshop will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Camellia Forest Tea Gardens and an hour will be set aside for lunch at a local restaurant. The workshop is limited to 10 participants and the overall fee is $50, but is half-price for students and children ages 10 and over. 

"We've been selling tea plants to gardeners for decades," said Christine Parks, who runs the Camellia Forest Tea Gardens. 

Joshua Calhoun, an intern at the tea gardens, said the Grow Your Own Tea workshop will cover the basics of what tea plants are, how they are grown around the world and how they grow here in Chapel Hill. After the workshop, participants may take home their own potted seeds to grow. 

Parks said, to her, tea planting is a pleasure. 

After moving to North Carolina with her husband, David Parks, in 1994, she trained to become an epidemiologist. Now, in addition to growing tea and teaching classes at the nursery, Parks works as a researcher in environmental science and public health.

"My family has a nursery — my husband's nursery grows camellias," Parks said. "I kind of fell in love with it about 12 years ago when we visited China, and it finally dawned on me that we could grow tea and I could be learning the rest of my life from all the different parts of the processes and cultures involved with tea planting." 

For those interested in the history and scope of tea as a whole, an Introduction to Tea workshop will be held Saturday at the tea gardens from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The Saturday workshop will provide a general introduction to tea —  the plant and the drink — with an instructional tasting featuring the garden's own homegrown teas. The fee for this workshop is $25 per person.

Emily Sallade, a first-year student, said tea is a driving force in her academic life. 

"As silly as it sounds, tea can really be a good mental stimulant for me," she said. "It's great for studying and helps me not completely stress out." 

In regards to tea planting as a whole, Parks said what was once a hobby has grown into a real passion.

"It's something I do right now as a serious hobby, although I've been giving these workshops for years," she said. "We're building our garden slowly here in Chapel Hill, so that way we can have a place for people to come and learn. So my passion isn't so much making and selling tea, but in teaching people how they can grow their own and enjoy the tea that they drink."

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