Growing Tea and Coffee Plants Indoors Under Artificial Plant Lighting

By   12/31/2015

Quick, what gets your day started every morning? I’m guessing most of you answered either coffee or tea (tea for me). I recently got a question from a reader about growing their own tea at home. I had never even considered the possibility, but after some research, I learned about a Japanese farmer who was actually growing tea indoors and decided to give it a try myself.

green tea leaves from japan

Loose leaf green tea from Japan

I read about this Japanese tea farmer in an article in a Japanese paper. Basically, due to poor growing conditions where he was living (for tea anyway), he decided to move his tea plantation indoors into a greenhouse. He was actually using LED grow lights to grow, but I began by using a combination of MH grow lights and HPS grow lights. I supplemented them with some florescent grow bulbs.

This setup worked really well to grow the tea, but I didn’t really know what I was doing so the resulting harvest wasn’t the greatest quality. I tried another grow and switched to LED plant lights. They worked better, but, to be honest,  standard HID lighting systems are fine for tea, since it doesn’t have as high a sensitivity to heat as many other plants.

So tea can be grown indoors, but coffee can’t. Or can it? Can you grow coffee using HID grow lights or LED grow lights, like you can tea? That’s what we’re going to explore now.

To answer this question, I tried to same setup for coffee. Have you ever heard of anyone growing coffee indoors? That’s a real question, actually. I really want to know. I want to claim that I’m the first, but I can’t be certain of that, so if you’ve ever heard of anyone using indoor lighting systems to grow coffee, let me know.

Anyway, I bought some standard Colombian coffee beans and put them in some pots. I placed these inside a standard grow tent and used LED grow lights that I hung from support beams of the tent using a ratchet hanger.

I actually used two different LED systems. The first one I used was by NextLight, specifically their Mega. These are excellent and you’ve heard me talk about them before. I’ve used these a lot. They provide 12 different spectra of light and are fully programmable. They give you all of the bandwidths that plants need to grow, nothing more and nothing less.

I also tried using Pro Max Grow’s largest light fixture, the MAX 1200. This thing is the equivalent of a 1000 watt HID system, but only needs 250 watts of power to run. It also produces so little heat that it doesn’t even need any cooling fans. It’s quite a remarkable light, but not many people know about it, for some reason.

Pro Max Grow MAX1200 LED grow light

Pro Max Grow’s MAX 1200 250 watt LED grow light fixture

Pro Max Grow LED lights only use white spectrum LED diodes. I’m sure you’re aware of the raging debate about which is better, white or multi-colored diodes, and that is why I used both lighting systems. I wanted to see for myself.

The theory is that using multiple colored bandwidths is more efficient, since you can limit the light to only the bandwidths plants require to grow and leave out the ones they don’t, like light in the green spectrum. White light on the other hand, contains those bandwidths and thus has some wasted energy.

The other side of the argument says that white light is much closer to natural sunlight and therefore is better, despite the “wasted” spectra. They say that plants do use that light, just maybe not as obviously. It makes them feel more comfortable and more natural, so they grow better, even if they don’t use those bandwidths specifically to grow.

The results of my little experiment are as yet inconclusive. Both lights have grown my coffee plants pretty well, but the real test, as we all know, is the flowering stage. Can these LED grow light systems encourage my coffee plants to produce a bountiful harvest? That is what I hope to answer soon.

As to which of the two systems, the multi-spectrum system from kind LED or the white LED system from Pro Max Grow, produces the better results, I honestly can’t say. They both did really well and I believe they outshone any HID system. Either one of these lights are pretty amazing for growing coffee and they were amazing for growing tea as well. I’m sure many of you know they are amazing for other types of plants, we won’t say which ones, since not everyone lives in certain states where certain plants can legally be grown, as well.

Now I’ll turn it over to you guys. Have you ever grown anything without the help of natural sunlight? If so, which grow light system did you use: fluorescent lighting, HID lighting (and if so, did you use high-pressure sodium bulbs or metal halide bulbs or a combination of both) or did you try your hand at LED plant lighting?

Whichever one you tried, what were your results? Also, do you have any specific recommendations or tips for the rest of us? I’ve done a bit of growing indoors myself, but I’m far from a real expert and there is so much more to learn. I would definitely appreciate any advice you guys have for me and I will also be happy to answer any questions you have about indoor grow lighting or just growing indoors in general. Feel free to ask me anything!

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