Other Common Names:
The other common names for the shrub tea are green and black tea.
Camellia sinensis is the source of tea of commerce. The young processed leaves yield tea -- the world's most important caffeine beverage. Tea drinking originated in China and the word tea is derived from t'e of the Chinese Fukien dialect. The Dutch introduced it to Europe. In Cantonese, tea is known as Ch'a and this is the name by which this wonderful beverage came to be known in Japan, India, Russia, Iran and the Middle East. The first authentic reference to tea was made in an ancient Chinese dictionary revised by Kuo P'o, a celebrated Chinese scholar in AD 350.In the 1800's; Englishman Robert Fortune explored China disguised as a Chinese merchant.
During his journey, Fortune learned the secrets of growing and processing tea. The British soon exported tea seeds and tea-growing technology to India. There, they discovered Camillia sinensis assamicas, a second varietal of the tea plant. The assamica plant has bigger leaves and grows better in the low plains of India. The Chinese plant is better suited to its higher elevations and a tougher climate. Today, most tea plants are a hybrid of these two genetic varietals. The many types of true tea, among them Green, Oolong, Black, White and Pu-erh, are distinguished by the techniques by which they are processed, Tea is now grown in significant commercial quantities on every continent except Europe and North America.
A small evergreen shrub cultivated to a height of 7 to 8 feet, but growing wild up to 30 feet high, much branched. Bark rough, grey. Leaves dark green, lanceolate or elliptical, on short stalks, blunt at apex, base tapering, margins shortly serrate, young leaves hairy, older leaves glabrous.
Flowers solitary or two or three together on short branchlets in the leaf axils, somewhat drooping, on short stalks with a few small bracts, 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide; sepals five, imbricate, slightly united below, ovate or rounded, blunt smooth, persistent; petals usually five or up to nine, unequal, strongly rounded, concave, spreading, white, caducous; stamens indefinite, adherent to petals at base in two rows, filaments fiexuose, half the length of petals; anthers large, versatile; ovary small, free, conical, downy, three celled with three or four pendulous ovules in each cell; styles three distinct or combined at base, slender simple stigmas. Fruit a smooth, flattened, rounded, trigonous three-celled capsule; seed solitary in each cell; size of a small nut.
The tea plant is a native of eastern Asia, and was brought to Europe during the second half of the seventeenth century. It is extensively cultivated in China and Japan, also in Assam, Java, Bengal, Ceylon, Sicily, Portugal, Brazil, Jamaica, etc. It may also be successfully cultivated in South Carolina
Tea thrives best in moist, free draining, and fertile acid soils. Prefers a generous watering regime during growth. Woodland, Sunny Edge, Dappled Shade, Shady Edge are the common areas where one capture the site of tea plant. The plant prefers light sandy and medium loamy soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soil. It can grow in semi-shade light woodland.
Camellia sinensis need full sun to part shade. They prefer a well drained, neutral to slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter. Enrich soil with well rotted compost and retain moisture with good thick mulch. When being harvested for tea the shoots and 2-3 top leaves are harvested every 8-1 Q days. Camellia sinensis are propagated by cutting or seed. Soak seed in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. Hardwood cuttings should be taken from winter to summer, treated with rooting hormone and with bottom heat of 72 degrees recommended. Rooting is slow. The root hairs are very fine, so the plant can not be allowed to dry out completely. Increase watering when the plant is actively growing and when the plant is in bloom. Fertilize every 2-3 weeks in the spring through fall, use a fertilizer for acid loving plants diluted to ½ the strength recommended on the label. Report every 2-4 years in late winter or early spring.
Seed can be sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and the hard covering around the micropyle should be filed down to leave a thin covering. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 23°c.Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions when they are more than 15cm tall and give them some protection from winter cold for their first year or three outdoors. Seedlings take 4 - 12 years before they start to produce seed. Terminal shoots only are harvested, with three harvests a season being normal. The season of harvest is October till January depending on climate variation.
The scented white flowers which are hermaphrodite are in bloom from March through May.
Pests and Diseases
Tea Scale is the worst pest on camellias. It is difficult to treat with contact insecticide because total coverage with the insecticide on the underside of the leaves is necessary. Therefore, treating with a systemic insecticide or horticultural oil is recommended. Black fly can be a problem on young growth, especially the long shoots produced later in the year. They move on as the shoot ripens, but leave damaged and twisted leaves. Either rub them off with your fingers or spray with a general insecticide. Woolly aphids can be a problem if they get into your conservatory, infecting a wide range of plants. Insecticides will help, or there is a biological control, a parasitic wasp which can be released in spring.
The dried leaves of the shrub
Camellia sinensis are the most commonly
used part of the plant for its commercial
and medicinal value.
• Tea is a mild stimulant and astringent which is a refreshing beverage.
• It is used in treating fevers and inflammatory diseases.
• Green tea may also assist with weight management by helping to boost your metabolism.
• In colds, catarrhs, and slight attacks of rheumatism, warm tea is taken as a diluent, diuretic, and diaphoretic.
• Drinking tea lowered low-density lipoprotein, the LDL "bad" cholesterol in recent studies
• The leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and other medical systems to treat asthma (functioning as a bronchodilator), angina pectoris, peripheral vascular disease, and coronary artery disease.
• Green tea leaves and extracts have shown to be effective against bacteria responsible for bad breath.
• Black eyes and bruises are treated with a moistened tea bag.
• A damp bag of black tea to soothe herpes and also gives a quick relief for insect bites.
• Green tea is diuretic and gently astringes the fibres of the stomach, toning it and improving digestion.
• An essential oil is distilled from the fermented and dried leaves which are used in manufacture of sanctuary or signal oil for burning purposes.
• It is used in perfumery and in commercial food flavouring.
• The leaves also contain quercetin, a dyestuff that, when found in other plants, is much used as a dye.
• A non drying oil obtained from camellia is used in textile industry.
• The wood of camellia is moderately hard and is very good for walking sticks.