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Théier (Camellia sinensis) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin
Théier (Camellia sinensis) - Jardin botanique Val Rahmeh-Menton © MNHN - Christophe Joulin

Tea plant

The tea plant is native to China. Cultivated in China since the 7th century, it is now widely cultivated in the tropics, from Sri Lanka to Mauritius to Kenya.

Identity Card

Common name
tea plant, tea shrub
Binominal name
Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze

Taxonomy

Kingdom
Plantae
Family
Theaceae
Synonyms
Thea bohea L., Thea viridis L.

Detailed Informations

Area of origin
South-west China, northern parts of Thailand and Laos, Assam (India)

Etymology

The genus Camellia is named after the Jesuit friar and botanist J.J. Kamel. Sinensis means "which comes from China".

Description and flowering period

This small tree reaches 5 to 10 meters in height. In cultivation it is usually pruned not to exceed 2 meters in height. The foliage is persistent, dark-green and glossy. The leaves are alternate, elliptical with a pointed end. They are tough, have finely toothed margins and can be slightly fuzzy on their underside. The deeply perfumed flowers are either solitary or grouped. They have 5 sepals, 5 white or pale yellow petals and numerous yellow stamens. The fruits are small green capsules which contain from 1 to 4 round or flattened seeds which can be pressed to obtain oil.

Habitat

It requires a humid environment and acidic soil in full sun or part-shade. The species grows at temperatures ranging between 15°C and 30°C, it is drought intolerant and can withstand frosts down to -8°C.

Uses

  • Ornamental.
  • Food crop: Dried leaves (subject to different levels of oxidation) are infused to make tea or fermented to make black tea. Hundreds of different cultivars have been developed for tea production.
  • Medicinal: Leaves are used for their stimulant, astringent, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It is also used to treat anxiety, insomnia, obesity, digestive and respiratory disorders.

Notes

When consumed in large quantities, tea can induce headaches, anxiety, palpitations or insomnia. Cultivated since the 7th century in China, it is today cultivated throughout the tropics, from Sri Lanka to Mauritius and Kenya. It is thought to have become invasive in Tanzania and Madagascar. Extremely widespread, tea drinking has sometimes become a cultural habit, such as the Japanese tea ceremony or the British afternoon tea.

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