- Vicony Tea Directory
- Brief Introduction of Camellia Plant
- Morphology of Camellia Sinensis Plant
- Growing Environment of Camellia Plants
- Biological characteristics of Camellia Plant
- Growing Camellia Sinensis
- Cold Hardy Tea Plant
- Grow Your Own Tea Organically
- Planting & Care
- Camellia Sinensis-Backyard Tea
- What is Camellia sinensis
- Camellia sinensis
- Nomenclature and taxonomy
- Health effects
Vicony Tea Directory
|Camellia Shrub | Tea Shrub|
Brief Introduction of Camellia Plant
Chinese Camellia sinensis plant is the woody perennial evergreen species of plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce Chinese tea. It is of the genus Camellia, a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. White tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all made from this plant, but are processed in different ways to attain different levels of oxidation. Common names include tea plant, tea tree, and tea shrub.
There are two major varieties that characterize this species (1) Chinese Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (L.) Kuntz and (2) Camellia sinensis var. clonal assamica (Masters) Kitam.
|Small Camellia Arbor|
Morphology of Camellia Sinensis Plant
There are three varieties of camellia sinensis plant, respectively belonging to shrub, small arbor and arbor. Mostly cultivated camellia sinensis plants belong to shrub with height 1 to 3 meters and without trunks. Most cultivated camellia sinensis in southern China’s Fujian and Guangdong provinces belong to small arbor with visible trunks and branches 20 to 30 centimeters above the ground. Camellia sinensis arbor are tall and huge with visible trunks. The wild camellia sinensis found in the virgin forest of Yunnan province of China fell into this category. The camellia sinensis arbor can grow as high as several meters and even more than ten meters. During harvesting time, people need to use ladder or climb on them to pick tealeaves.
The Leaves of camellia sinensis are alternate, simple leaves in shapes of sub-lanceolate, elliptical, oblong, oval, oval and so on, but mostly oval and ovoid. The size of camellia leaf is often used as standards to categorize camellia plant. It is commonly calculated by leaf length × width × 0.7 (factor)of grown leaves. Where more than 60 square centimeters is seen as huge leaf, between 40 ~ 60 cm2 large leaf, between 20 ~ 40 cm2 middle leaf, under20 square centimeters small leaf.
|The size of camellia leaf is used as standards to categorize camellia plants.|
There are obvious main vein in fresh camellia leaf and lateral veins of 5 to 15 pairs separating from main veins. The lateral veins which extend in an angle of 60 degree to the edge and then bend upward to link with the lateral vein in front of it, forming a closed network which is an important feature of camellia leaf.
There are three common forms of camellia leaf apex, acute apex, blunt apex and round apex which are also used to categorize chinese camellia plants.
Developed from the bud, camellia leaf consists of scale piece, fish leaf and true leaf. In olivine color, the scale piece grows outside and enwrap young bud to protect it. When young bud growing, the scale piece will soon fall off. Fish leaf is the incomplete true leaf, so named because of its shape with visible main veins and invisible lateral veins. True leaf will come into being when fish leaf grows up. The color and thickness vary by camellia varieties, season, age, growth conditions and cultivation methods. Shoots and young leaves are picked to make tea while mature leaves and old leaves left for photosynthesis to manufacture nutrients and maintain growth.
|Different Apex Forms of Camellia Leaves|
The root of camellia sinensis plants is made of taproot, lateral root, radicel and fibril. Taproot can go vertically into soil as deep as 2~3 meters while the root of cultivated camellia shrubs can reach uo to 1 meter. Separating from taproot, lateral root and radicel develop to tranmit water and nutrients so they are both called as transmit roots. Fibril grows on the radicel. It assimilates water and nutrients so called as assimilating roots. Lateral roots, radicel and fibril together constitue root cluster of camellia plants. The size of root cluster generally is 1~1.5 times bigger than that of the camellia tree crown.
Different Edge Forms of Tea Leaves
when a camellia sinensis plant matures, branches separate from its trunk and then junior level branches develop from the senior level branches, so on, forming the tussock-shaped crown. The natural grown-up camellia sinensis pant without artificial interference appears to be in tower shape. Cultivated camellia plant commonly has a curved or flat crown due to constant measures such as truncating and disbranching which make it grow breadthwise rather than upward.
Camellia flowers are hermaphrodite, often white, consisting of pedicel, sepals, petals, male core, female core and so on. Camellia buds generally came into being during late June and blossom out in October. It is up to one year and four months from buds blossom to fruits mature.
Camellia fruits belong to the capsules with 1 to 5 chambers, mostly two and three. A camellia seed is composed of husk, seed capsule, cotyledon and embryo. A camellia seed is rich in fat, starch, sugar with a small amount of saponin. Camellia seeds can be extracted to edible oil. Draff can be used to produce wine and aponin.
Camellia Flowers | Tea Flowers
Growing Environment of Camellia Plants
Camellia sinensis plants originated in China’s southwest region. It prefers warm, wet and shaded growing environment. It is better to grow in acid soil with annual average temperature between 15 ° C and 25 ° C. Camellia shrubs can generally stand up to -10 ° C temperature and even -15 ° C temperature if it is in short time. The maximum high temperature for camellia sinensis plants is 45 ° C but when it is above 35 ° C, its growth will be inhibited and leaves found to be seared. Areas with annual effective accumulated temperature 3500 ° C can grow camellia sinensis plants. It is suitable to be planted in acid reddish yellow soil with PH value 4.0 ~ 6.5 while the most suitable PH value is 5~6. The soil need to be deep with at least 70 cm thickness and strong water retention. Soil with hard layer or bad drainage capacity isn’t suitable for camellia sinensis plant. The basic requirement of rainfall is 1000~2000 mm. Camellia sinensis can be planted in hills and plains preferably mountainous. To avoid being frozen, areas with strong northern winds during winter shouldn’t be chosen.
Camellia Fruits | Tea Fruits
Biological characteristics of Camellia Plant
Chinese Camellia sinensis plant is a perennial crop with life span of several decades even up to several hundreds years. When under good management, camellia sinensis plants can be harvested on a small scale in 3-4 years after planting. In 5 years, it can reach a big annual output and then remain at it for above 30 years.
The lowest daily average temperature of camellia bud growth is 10 °C. The bud growth will accelerate when temperature increases. When daily average temperature falls between 15°C ～20°C, camellia buds grow quickly and tea made of leaves picked at this time is of best quality. When daily average temperature falls between 20°C ～30°C, camellia buds grow vigorously but tea made from the leaves is of inferior quality. When daily average temperature is below 10 °C, camellia buds stop growing and turn into dormancy.
In natural growing environment, camellia sinensis plants in most chinese tea producing areas have three growth periods between which are rest periods.
The first growth period(spring shoots): from late March to early May
The second growth period(summer shoot): from early June to early July
The third growth period(autumn shoots): from middle July to early Oct
When harvested, camellia plants can sprout for five or six times during each year. Shoots develop most vigorously during April and May followed by period from July to September. The conditions required for camellia shoots to develop are different for each growth period. During spring growth period, the most important factor is temperature while in other growth periods, the most deciding factors are nutritional status of the camellia plant when basic temperature condition is met.
The life span of the camellia leaf is 325 days in average by testing different camellia varieties. Generally speaking, camellia leaf developed from spring shoots exists longer than those from summer shoots.
From the third or four years after being planted, a camellia sinensis plant will begin to bloom. From buds come into being to seeds mature, it will be more than 500 days, resulting in an unique phenomenon that camellia flowers and camellia fruits meet together. In chinese most tea producing areas, the differentiation of flower bud begin at late June, anthesis is from September to December. Cross-pollination is fulfilled from middle October to middle November by insects. Camellia fruits mature until the late October of the next year.
The climate in chinese camellia growing areas differs greatly by geographical environment. In tropical region, a camellia plant grows around years. Its growth speed varies only by rainfall. Tea leaves can be harvested almost around years while camellia plants has dormancy in other chinese tea producing areas resulted from low temperature and the amount of rainfall. In chinese Shandong province, the dormancy of camellia plants can reach up to seven months while in most of other chinese producing areas, it is expected to be as long as 4~5 months.
|Green Tea||Black Tea||White Tea||Yellow Tea||Oolong Tea||Dark Tea||Pu Erh||Scented||Flowering||Herbal||Tea Powder|
Growing Camellia Sinensis
Camellia sinensis can be grown in most moderate zones in the United States. Zones 7, 8 & 9 provide the most suitable outdoor climates althought it can be grown in greenhouses and/or protected areas in colder climate zones or used in containers where you could protect it from severe freezes.
Camellia sinensis will perform well in areas in bright light or full sun with balanced nutrients and plenty of water.
Species Name: Camellia sinensis (Large Leaf – White Flowering cultivars)
Growth Habit: Upright, bushy growth
Bloom Time: Fall
Maintainable Height: 3-4’ or larger
Soil Conditions: Moist, well drained acid soil
Light Conditions: Full sun to part shade
Uses: Containers, landscape & garden plants, screens, hedges, foundation plants Although there are many varieties of Camellia sinensis, the large leaf tea is the most common.
Most of these plants will produce white flowers, although some have been known to have pink tones to full pink flowers. In the fall of each year, the tea plant is covered with small blossoms and later the next spring and summer, you probably will see small seed pods on your tea plants.
Sinensis is an excellent seed-setter. These seeds can be harvested, planted and new seedlings will soon sprout up. Each of these seeds will produce plants that are genetically different from the parent, and will most likely resemble the parent, but this is not true in all cases. Tea can be made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis.
Cold Hardy Tea Plant
Grow Your Own Tea Organically
Freshly made tea tastes far superior to any tea you’ll find in a market. If you enjoy the soothing comfort of a warm cup of tea, why not grow your own to relish every day? The Cold Hardy Tea Plant is one of the hardiest of all the Camellia sinensis, with smaller, narrower leaves especially preferred for making green and black teas. Your tree has been groomed and will ship ready for you to start making your own tea right away.
These make attractive hedges. If you are growing for several people, a hedge is a great way to grow your plants. They do well in containers too, so if you live in colder areas, just bring the plants indoors for a few months. In fall and winter, you’ll have the added bonus of small white flowers that will perfume the area with their delicious fragrance!
Even better is the fact that the Cold Hardy resists tough conditions with ease. The caffeine in the leaves gives the Cold Hardy immunity so that it stands up to pests, diseases and temperature extremes.
A few plants will supply you with a lifetime of delicious tea, fresh and as pure as possible! It will grow to a very large shrub if left on its own. To use it for tea production, which uses only the new growth at stem tips, you will want to keep it pruned to about 3 or 4 feet to make it easy to harvest and to keep it producing fresh new stems.
Plus, you get a ton of health benefits. This is a descendant of the original tea plant, first used in China thousands of years ago for medicinal purposes. There are countless benefits to brewing your own tea. First, you’ll know that no dangerous chemicals or pesticides were used on the plant. The health advantages of drinking tea are remarkable. Full of antioxidants, it has been proven to lower the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Many drink it for its ability to assist with weight loss.
And it’s long-living. Enjoy a lifetime supply of delicious, fresh tea leaves and save thousands of dollars! One tea plant can produce for over 100 years. Just snip off the leaves and dry. Use them fresh or store them. Some people like to grow extra to give away as healthy gifts. One thing is certain – you’ll have this plant for a very long time.
Order now – grow your own hardy Cold Hardy Tea plants and start enjoying truly superior tea!
Planting & Care
The tea plant (or Camellia sinensis) has been used for centuries for its health benefits regardless of the tea color. The drink is also known for its incredible antioxidants, caffeine boost, nutrients and other medicinal compounds. It’s hard to say just how long people have enjoyed tea for its health benefits but what can be confirmed is that it has been used as a beverage for over 5,000 years! The leaves of the plant are what primarily make up the beverage and is typically green, white, black or Oolong in appearance. Typically grown outdoors in USDA growing zones 6-9, a tea plant can also be successfully grown in a container to enjoy your favorite hot beverage year round.
Choosing a location: Your tea plant will be happiest in a full to partial sun location. If possible, try to put it in a spot that it will be protected from strong winds. Space multiple plants at least three feet apart from one another. Tea plants enjoy a moist, well draining, acidic soil (ph range of 6-6.5 or lower).
Planting directions (in ground):
1) An acidic soil is best for the tea plant and using soil meant for rhododendrons will help maintain a happy tea plant.
2) Make your hole twice the size of the root ball and just as deep.
3) The rhododendron soil is ideal for the back filling of the hole which will introduce some acidity for the tea plant.
4) Spread a 2-3 inch layer of mulch around the base of the bush to help retain moisture while simultaneously combating competing weeds from growing.
Planting directions (potted):
1) Select a pot with good drainage that is about twice the size of the root ball. Drainage is important as tea plants hate to have “wet feet.”
2) Use a well draining, acidic soil to fill the bottom third of the pot, and center your new tea plant. Carefully fill the soil in around the root system and be sure to leave the root crown (where the root ball meets the trunk) just above the soil surface.
3) Bright, indirect light is the best location for your newly potted tea plant with a steady temperature of about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
*Tip: To encourage blooming on the bush, change the surrounding temperature to a window of 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit after the buds begin to appear in winter season.
4) As the bush grows it will need periodic repotting. Typically once every 2-3 years (or as needed) the roots will outgrow the pot, so move up to a slightly larger container and be sure to trim the roots so they fit proportionately.
Watering: Your tea plant will require at least one weekly watering (mulch helps retain moisture so be sure to spread a good 2-3 inch layer around the base). Keep an eye on the area during the hot season as you might need to move up to a dual watering weekly. Try to avoid doing a “rain down” style of watering as this can promote fungal issues.
For potted tea plants, wait until the top 2-4 inches of the soil become dry before any additional watering. Only water enough to where you see it escaping the drainage holes and stop. Do not allow the pot to sit in water.
Fertilizing: For the first year, during active growing in spring and summer, apply a 1/2 lb. of a slow release, complete fertilizer every two months. For each following year, add an additional 1/2 lb. to each application. Broadcast the fertilizer around the base of the tree at least six inches from the base of the tree to avoid root burn and then water thoroughly.
From spring to the fall season, use a liquid, acidic fertilizer every three weeks on your potted tea plant. For the best results, dilute the formula to half the strength of the recommended amount.
Pruning: Once your tea plant gets to be around 5 feet tall, prune back the bush in the early spring season. Always make your cuts at a 45 degree angle with sterilized clippers. Rubbing alcohol and boiling water are easy ways to sterilize your tool(s). Cut back the top growth to about 3-4 feet tall. Always remove any damaged, dead or crowded branches to maintain the shape and size of the plant.
Potted tea plants should be pruned back yearly after the blooming period. Just like the in-ground tea plant, be sure to remove dead, damaged, or crowded branches. Cut the stem back towards the base of the bush. You can cut individual branches to just past a leaf node or bud.
Harvesting: The youngest leaves on your tea plant tend to make the best tea. The youngest are typically the last few leaves and the bud. Set the leaves to dry out of the sun for about 2 hours and then pan heat or steam to stop the leaf’s oxidation. Try to keep the heat fairly high during this process (500 degrees fahrenheit) for about 15 minutes while continuously shaking and/or stirring to prevent scorch or burning. Leaves can now be dried in the oven or in a dehydrator, stored in an airtight container and left in a cool dry area for storage.
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Camellia Sinensis-Backyard Tea
There is more history to tea than you might think – a short history of tea.
by Christine Parks
As I begin writing, I am enjoying a cup of tea traditionally reserved for Chinese emperors—freshly dried tea made from the first spring buds of Camellia sinensis. If you’ve never tasted it (and chances are you haven’t), let me tell you this: fresh green tea is a delicious treat. Never bitter, green tea made from whole leaves and buds is gently flavored with complex aromatics, which often remind me of a delicate perfume.
Teas made from the first flush of spring growth are known for being especially flavorful! Indeed, drinking handmade tea from my own backyard has given me a completely new appreciation for why tea eventually grew from being a medicinal herb to become a favorite of Chinese emperors and eventually the second most popular drink in the world (after water).
In the United States, few people recognize they are enjoying camellias whenever they sit down with a cup of tea. Long before the uniquely American inventions of the tea bag and iced tea, ancient cultures of China and Japan were perfecting the art of making tea from Camellia sinensis. My tea journeys have just begun, and I am both inspired and humbled by how much I have to learn. At the same time, I can’t help but share my enthusiasm for this process of discovery, which is why I was glad to have the opportunity to speak at the ACS meeting at Longwood this past winter as chairperson of our first Tea Committee.
One of my favorite venues for tea education is an informal tea tasting. So when I was first asked to present at the ACS Annual Meeting, I imagined holding a small gathering of no more than 20 people. We ended up deciding to make the session open to the public, which was more of a logistical challenge than I’d ever imagined, with at least 1,000 visitors per day at Longwood that time of year!
We survived by pouring samples of a single incredible tea, Ginseng Oolong, imported by Phil Parda president of Zhong Guo Cha (China Tea). Phil also provided examples of other types of teas ranging from white to green, oolongs and smoky blacks.
Some of you may be wondering why have we decided to feature tea in the ACS? Well, simply put: in Chinese, camellias are called “Chá hua” (tea flower) and Chá is the name for tea.
Camellia sinensis is arguably the most popular and abundant camellia in the world. Our mission for Tea at the ACS is to educate gardeners and tea lovers alike about Camellia sinensis. Though a new focus for ACS, tea has a long and living history. Many books and organizations may offer knowledge on tea, the drink, but few resources exist from the gardeners and horticultural perspective.
We hope to educate members of ACS and the general public about all aspects of the tea plant, from cultivation to production of the tea we drink and the diversity of products and culture that have sprung from this plant. With thousands of years of written history on tea culture and cultivation, however, we will not pretend to be the ultimate experts on all things tea. Our primary focus will be on bringing to light the tea plant itself.
We will explore the modern history of the cultivation and culture of tea grown in different regions throughout the world. This will include countries famous for tea, such as China, Japan, and India, as well as places less well known for tea cultivation, but where tea plays a vital cultural or economic role. We will also focus our attention on tea cultivation and culture in North America, including the potential for growing tea in our “new world” gardens. As much as we look to the past, we will be looking towards the future of tea and the evolution of modern tea culture.
Indigenous to south China, tea was used for thousands of years as a medicinal product. Many origin stories exist, but one famous story suggests in 2737 BC tea was “discovered” by the Emperor Shen Nung. Tea became an integral part of Chinese culture over thousands of years, though maybe not always as the popular drink we know today. In 222, tea was mentioned as a substitute for wine. However, much use and cultivation of tea grew out of Buddhist traditions. In 600-800 AD traveling Buddhist monks introduced tea and Chinese tea traditions to Japan and Korea, while in 800 AD the first book on tea was written (the Chá Ching by Lu Yu).
Putting this in perspective, the first European writings on tea in the 1560s, when exports begin by both Dutch and British traders. The rest is history…more than one war was started over tea, not the least of which began with the infamous Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Although patriotic Americans were encouraged to shun tea, the British were among the European countries whose love of tea drove them to set up tea plantations in their colonies world-wide. Not that trade secrets were easy to come by: in 1848, Robert Fortune traveled undercover in China to collect tea plants, knowledge, and workers to establish British tea plantations in India. He managed to export thousands of plants and hundreds of workers (still undercover?) destined for India, though that becomes a whole other story. Suffice it to say that a native tea plant, Camellia sinensis var. assamica, was soon discovered and proved to be a more successful crop, while imported Chinese tea plants turned out to be better suited to high elevation locations such as Darjeeling.
Although grown throughout the world, tea remains an especially important economic and cultural force in China; with production of about one million tons per year. Formerly exclusive Tribute Teas, enjoyed only by royalty and high officials, are now known as “famous” teas that are becoming available to the western world. These famous teas are characterized by their unique taste, appearance, and consistent quality over time. Their names often evoke the legends and geography (Dragonwell, Monkey King) or aspects of the leaf or growing conditions (Silver Needle, Sweet Dew, Cloud and Fog).
Look for future articles on Chinese tea, and what makes each tea so unique. The remainder of my time here will be spent describing, in general, how this one plant can be made into so many different kinds of teas. Knowing that thousands of years have yielded many schools of expertise on how best to process the leaf into the tea we drink, I have written the following information from the perspective of those who might want to try to grow and make their own tea at home.
Harvesting and Making Tea
Processed tea qualities can vary regionally and seasonally, and there are many variations of how to process the leaves into green, oolong and black teas. Most black tea consumed in the United States is harvested and processed using machines. But many of the finest teas in the world are still picked and processed by hand.
Pinching the tender stems of new growth, pick a few young leaves and leaf buds from your plant, choosing smaller leaves for green tea and larger, older leaves for oolong or black tea. White teas sometimes use just the bud. Tea can be harvested as soon as it starts to grow in the spring, (April or May in our part of North Carolina). A rule of thumb is to pluck the last two leaves and a bud of the growing stem. Leaves will grow back, and you should be able to harvest more in a week or two. Harvested tea should be processed soon after you pick it, but first leaves can be left spread out on a dish or tray to wither for several hours or overnight.
Next, the oxidation process, sometimes called the fermentation of the leaf, is what makes green, oolong and black teas different. Oxidation is what you see when a cut apple turns brown after exposed to the air. Oxidation of tea leaves produces the subtle chemical changes responsible for the distinctive taste and color characteristics of different types of tea. Green tea is not oxidized at all, and can have a grassy or earthy flavor. To prevent oxidation from occurring when processing green tea, steam the leaves or stir fry them in a dry pan for one or two minutes on the stove as you would a vegetable.
Oolong tea is partially oxidized, which often adds a floral or fruity flavor to the tea. To make oolong, bruise the leaves by gently rolling them in your hands or by shaking or pressing them. Let them sit until the leaves just begin to turn brown (30 minutes to a few hours). For black tea, firmly roll and bruise the leaves so that juices are released. Let the leaves sit until they are completely brown (several hours). Oxidation takes place best in an environment that is somewhat warm and not too dry. I sometime place the leaves on a damp towel and put them in a slightly warmed oven with the heat off.
Rolling and shaping the leaves is optional but, in addition to providing the bruising necessary for oolong and black tea, it achieves a desired look and allows flavors to infuse the hot water differently than they do with unshaped leaves. Spread the leaves on a baking sheet and dry in the oven at 200-250 degrees for 20 minutes or until dry. Enjoy the aroma of the drying leaves! Dried tea can be stored in an airtight container away from the light. To get the best taste from your fresh teas, use within three to six months.
Use about one teaspoon of leaves per cup. For green tea, add hot (less than boiling) water and let steep for two to three minutes. For oolong tea, use water that is nearly boiling and let steep for five to eight minutes. And for black tea, use nearly boiling water and steep for three to five minutes. You can infuse the leaves two or more times, but tea that sits for too long can become bitter and astringent. For less caffeine, discard the first infusion after steeping for a minute, and drink a second infusion.
What is Camellia sinensis
Camellia sinensis is the plant that gives all real teas. The homeland of tea is China, though native species may also be found in other countries.
Legend has it that the first tea was discovered by the Chinese Emperor Shen Nong in 2700 B.C., when he was napping under a tea tree. Shen Nong was well known as a follower of traditional medicines, and often tried out the effects of plants on himself. Some legends go so far as to say his skin was transparent, allowing him to see exactly the effect that each plant was having.
Camellia sinensis is the name of the bush or small tree. Its leaves and leaf buds are used to make the real teas – white, yellow, green, oolong, black and fermented teas. All real trees come from the plant Camellia sinensis, without exception.
Many years ago, the Italians attempted to grow tea, but failed. The reason is the climate and terrain, which must be suitable for growing tea. Camellia sinensis requires a certain quantity of rain and sunshine in order for the bush to succeed. The final flavour of the tea will always depend on the area where it is grown. However, others have attempted to grow tea in Europe, with interesting results, but only after knowledge about tea growing became more accessible, and cultivate areas were selected more carefully.
Camellia sinensis is not only a bush, but depending on the variety, it can grow into a real tree. Such trees are common in uncultivated wild areas, and the leaves from these trees are usually used to create the fermented teas or Chinese Dancong teas. Camellia sinensis has tiny flowers which can also be found in certain tea types, though this very, very rare.
There are several varieties of the plant Camellia sinensis. The best known and most often found in tea cultivation is Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica. The Sinensis variety is a native Chinese plant, while Assamica has been found in the Indian province of Assam, after which it was named. The first is very suitable for green and oolong teas, while the second is usually used for black and fermented teas.
There are many, many cultivars of teas. Each country that cultivates tea has its own cultivars. The cultivars of teas can be viewed similar to the cultivars of wine. Some cultivars are reserved for a specific type of tea, while others can be used for different types.
In Japan, there are currently about 50 cultivars of tea, the most widely distributed is Yabukita. More than 90% of all tea plantations in Shizuoki are made up of the Yabukita cultivar.
Camellia sinensis was initially used in Chinese medicine as a medicine. Today it is popular due to its content of the polyphenols that have antioxidant properties. Many other types of tea have developed from this plant, and have various uses, e.g. Benifuki tea, which is used to relieve the symptoms of allergies, or Gaba tea, which is used to reduce high blood pressure.
What is interesting is that Camellia sinensis contains caffeine, though in much lower proportions than coffee. There is no type of real tea that does not contain caffeine, though in some cases, it can be almost negligible. The share of caffeine in tea cannot be determined only by the type of tea, but also by the quality of the leaves, type of processing of leaves, manner of preparation, and many other factors. The caffeine in tea is called theine.
Camellia sinensis is the species of plant whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce the popular beverage tea.
It is of the genus Camellia a genus of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. White tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh tea and black tea are all harvested from this species, but are processed differently to attain different levels of oxidation. Kukicha is also harvested from Camellia sinensis, but uses twigs and stems rather than leaves. Common names include tea plant, tea shrub, and tea tree (not to be confused with Melaleuca alternifolia, the source of tea tree oil).
There are two major varieties used for tea, Chinese tea, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis, and Assam tea, Camellia sinensis var. assamica.
Beside this two there is also Camellia sinensis var. pubilimba and Camellia sinensis var. dehungensis. They are also known as Mao Cha (毛茶) and used for Pu-Erh tea. It’s unclear whether those two varietal are own species or just a spontaneous hybrid of assamica and sinensis. The same applies for the varietal called “java bush”, Camellia sinensis var. parvifolia or Camellia sinensis var. cambodiensis.
Nomenclature and taxonomy
The name Camellia is taken from the Latinized name of Rev. Georg Joseph Kamelref, Society of Jesus (1661–1706), a Czech-born Jesuit lay brother, pharmacist, and missionary to the Philippines. Carl Linnaeus chose his name in 1753 for the genus to honor Kamel’s contributions to botany (although Kamel did not discover or name this plant, or any Camellia and Linnaeus did not consider this plant a Camellia but a Thea. The name sinensis means from China in Latin.
Camellia sinensis is native to East, South and Southeast Asia, but it is today cultivated across the world in tropical and subtropical regions. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is usually trimmed to below 2m when cultivated for its leaves. It has a strong taproot. The flowers are yellow-white, 2.5–4cm in diameter, with 7 to 8 petals.
The seeds of Camellia sinensis and Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil that should not be confused with tea tree oil, an essential oil that is used for medical and cosmetic purposes, and originates from the leaves of a different plant.
The leaves are 4–15cm long and 2–5cm broad. Fresh leaves contain about 4% caffeine. The young, light green leaves are preferably harvested for tea production; they have short white hairs on the underside. Older leaves are deeper green. Different leaf ages produce differing tea qualities, since their chemical compositions are different. Usually, the tip (bud) and the first two to three leaves are harvested for processing. This hand picking is repeated every one to two weeks.
Camellia sinensis is mainly cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates, in areas with at least 127 cm. (50 inches) of rainfall a year. However, the clonal one is commercially cultivated from the equator to as far north as Cornwall on the UK mainland. Many high quality teas are grown at high elevations, up to 1500 meters (5,000 ft), as the plants grow more slowly and acquire more flavour.
Tea plants will grow into a tree if left undisturbed, but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking. Two principal varieties are used, the small-leaved Chinese variety plant (C. sinensis sinensis) and the large-leaved Assamese plant (C. sinensis assamica), used mainly for black tea.
There are three main kinds of tea produced in India:
Assam tea comes from the northeastern section of the country. This heavily forested region is home to much wildlife, including the rhinoceros. Tea from here is rich and full-bodied. It was in Assam that the first tea estate was established, in 1837.
Darjeeling – the Darjeeling region is cool and wet, and tucked in the foothills of the Himalayas. The tea is delicately flavored, and considered to be one of the finest teas in the world. The Darjeeling plantations have 3 distinct harvests, termed ‘flushes’, and the tea produced from each flush has a unique flavor. First (spring) flush teas are light and aromatic, while the second (summer) flush produces tea with a bit more bite. The third, or autumn flush gives a tea that is lesser in quality.
Nilgiri tea comes from an even higher part of India than Darjeeling. This southern Indian region has elevations between 1,000 and 2,500 metres. The flavors of Nilgiri teas are subtle and rather gentle. They are frequently blended with other, more robust teas.
The Chinese plant (sometimes called C. sinensis var. sinensis) is a small-leaved bush with multiple stems that reaches a height of some 3 meters. It is native to southeast China. The first tea plant to be discovered, recorded and used to produce tea three thousand years ago, it yields some of the most popular teas.
The leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine and other medical systems to treat asthma (functioning as a bronchodilator), angina pectoris, peripheral vascular disease, and coronary artery disease.
Recent medical research on tea (most of which has been on green tea) has revealed various health benefits, including anti-cancer potential, effects on cholesterol levels, antibacterial properties and positive effects for weight loss. It is considered to have many positive health benefits due to tea’s high levels of catechins, a type of antioxidant.
However, tea may have some negative impacts on health, such as over-consumption of caffeine, and the presence of flouride and oxalates in tea.
- Plant Cultures: botany and history of the tea plant
- Jac.OxfordJournals.org, The effect of a component of tea (Camellia sinensis) on methicillin resistance in Staphylococcus.