Camellia sinensis

Leaves from Camellia sinensis are used to make tea – one of the most important non-alcoholic beverage in the world. Native to mainland China, South and Southeast Asia, it is also widely cultivated. An evergreen shrub with yellow-white flowers, this collection is from Tanzania.

Tea is cultivated for a hot drink made from its leaves. Two varieties are recognised; Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (Chinese tea) and Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Assam tea, Indian tea). It is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and over three million tonnes of tea are grown annually.

The origin of tea is not clear. Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is probably native to western Yunnan, while Camellia sinensis var. assamica is native to the warmer parts of Assam (India), Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China.

There is written evidence from the T'ang dynasty in AD 650 that tea was being cultivated in most of the provinces of China and that the process of making tea was well established.

Tea was introduced into Japan in about 600 AD by Buddhist priests returning home after studying in China. During the 8th and 9th centuries its use was widespread in courtly and monastic circles and a tea culture developed. By the 1330s and onwards, all Japanese social classes drank tea.

More facts

  • India is the largest tea producing country, growing nearly 30% of the world's tea
  • In China, the medicinal effects of tea have a history dating back almost 5,000 years
  • In Britain, 165 million cups of tea are drunk every day

Why not adopt a seed of the tea plant in praise of this wonderful species and as a special gift for the tea lovers in your life?

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