After reading an interesting article on bamboo leaf tea and its health benefits, I did a Google search and uncovered a link to the Bamboo Leaf Tea Farm (www.bambooleaftea.net) in Champions Gate, Florida, about a half-hour south of Orlando. While visiting friends in Orlando last month, I decided to make arrangements to go to the farm to learn more about bamboo tea, which is a tisane and not a true tea.
The farm’s bamboo leaves are grown and processed by hand without the use of any chemicals or pesticides. The tea has a wonderful sweet green flavor. It also has the highest amount of vegetative silica of any plant. It is what allows bamboo to grow so fast and remain flexible. Silica adds strength and flexibility to all the cells of the human body. It also supports hair and nail growth as well as adding suppleness to the skin. Bamboo tea offers silica in a whole food form that can be absorbed better than any supplement. The tea also contains soluble fiber that benefits the digestive system and is high in antioxidants promoting overall health and wellness.
The farm is owned by Shanti Pierce. She was hired by Disney Imagineering as a bamboo and ornamental grass expert for the Animal Kingdom project. From there she started her own bamboo farm eventually growing more than 40 species. Of the 40 varieties, she selected three that produce a superior cup of tea.
Bamboo is a species of flowering perennial evergreen plants in the grass family. It is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth, with reported growth rates of up to three feet per day. Unlike trees, individual bamboo stems, or culms, emerge from the ground at their full diameter and grow to their full height in a single growing season of three to four months.
The plants will grow in height anywhere from 20 to 80 feet. When asked about the longevity of bamboo, Shanti indicated that no one knows for sure. What indicates the end of the growing cycle is the flowering of the plant, a phenomenon consuming all of its energy. All plants of the same stock flower at the same time, regardless of their geographic location, and then the bamboo dies. The lack of environmental impact on the time of flowering indicates the presence of some sort of “alarm clock” in each cell of the plant that signals the diversion of all energy to flower production and the cessation of vegetative growth. This mechanism, as well as the evolutionary cause behind it, is still largely a mystery.
After sending several different tea leaf samples to an independent laboratory for analysis, she learned two things: one she knew and the other was a complete surprise. The first was that the bamboo plant itself as well as the leaves were very high in silica, which explained its flexibility, especially in inclement weather conditions like a hurricane. The second thing she learned was that bamboo leaf tea has a soluble fiber that is ingested when consumed. The silica and fiber supported her conclusion that bamboo leaf tea was an extremely healthy drink to consume regularly. She indicated that her research is ongoing.
After several years of research combined with trial and error, Shanti came up with the process she uses today to create Bamboo Leaf Tea. She follows an orthodox method of harvesting the tea by bending the stalk down to eye-level, clipping off the leaves, and releasing the stalk which then springs back to its original upright position due to its silica content flexibility. Following harvesting, the leaves are processed using several heating procedures. The process she developed retains the bamboo plant’s sweetness which is discernible in the tea itself.
Her vision for the future is to go to devastated parts of the world where water is present to re-vegetate the land with bamboo and grasses. The bamboo could then be harvested to create an improved source of livelihood and economic prosperity for the local population.
by Certified Tea Master Chas Kroll