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Camellia sinensis

Authority(L.) O. Kuntz
Common namescha, chah, tea, tee, ti
Ecocrop code599

DESCRIPTION: Tea is a woody shrub with pale - dark green leaves under natural conditions reaching a height of 5-15 m. In cultivation it is usually trimmed to 1-2 m tall. It has a taproot or oblique root system. The taproot may reach 3 m deep, but 1.5 is the usual. Development of lateral roots depends on environmental conditions. The trunk is straight, monopodial and the bark brown to grey. When a dormant bud develops it produces 1 or 2 small non-serrated bracts 5-10 mm long, which drop shortly. Then 1-2 pre-leaves appear 7-30 mm long without serrations or prominent veins. Then, normally, 4-8 true leaves appear followed by a new dormant bud. The true leaves are persistent, alternate with short pedicels 5-10 mm long. The lamina is elliptical to lanceolate and 7-22 cm long and 3-8 wide. It is sharply acuminate at the apex and cuneiform at the base. All leaf types, whether pubescent or glabrous, tender or leathery, are glossy and very green. The China differs from the Assam variety in its leaf characteristic which is coreacious and smaller; 4-10 cm long and about 1.5 cm wide. Flowers are pedicellate and develop from leaf axils on young branches and are either solitary or in clusters of 2-3. The pedicel is 8-10 mm long, glabrous (sometimes villous) with 2-3 caducous, broad, rounded and ciliate bracts. There are 5-6 green sepals which are herbaceous and slightly membraneous, 3-5 mm long, glabrous to villous and continue up to the fruit. The white corulla has 7-8 petals attached to the base of the androecium, they have more than 200 stamens 8-13 mm long with yellow anthers. The 8-12 mm-long gynaeceum with a superior ovary is very pubescent. Tea is practically allogamous and pollination is by insects and wind. Fruits are capsules with loculicidal dehiscence and are 1-1.5 cm long and 2-3 cm in diameter with 1 to even 5 loculi, each with 2 seeds. Seeds are spherical to hemispherical, 0.8-1.6 cm in diameter and smooth and brown when mature. The endosperm has 2 cotyledons surrounding the embryo, the seed wall is hard and thick and adheres to an internal tegument which is thick, tough and shiny. There are 400-600 seeds to the kilo. USES: Camelia sinensis has been known for thousands of years and is one of today's most important beverages, cultivated on the 5 continents; cultivated first by the Chinese over 3000 years ago and introduced to Europe in the beginning of the 17th century. Depending on whether the leaves undergo fermentation the tea is black or green. Green leaves are steamed and dried to produce green tea or leaves are withered, fermented, and dried to provide black tea. It has a stimulant effect due to caffeine. Steam distillation of black tea yields an essential oil. Tea extract is used as a flavour in alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins, and puddings. Air-dried tea seed yields a clear golden-yellow oil resembling sasanqua oil, but the seed cake, containing saponin, is not suitable for fodder. Refined tea seed oil, made by removing the free fatty acids with caustic soda, then bleaching the oil with Fuller's earth and a sprinkling of bone black, makes an oil suitable for use in manufacture of oil for burning purposes, and in all respects is considered a favourable substitute for rapeseed, olive, or lard oils. The oil is different from cottonseed, corn, or sesame oils in that it is a non-drying oil and is not subject to oxidation changes, thus making it very suitable for use in the textile industry; it remains liquid below -18o.C. Tea is a potential source of food colours (black, green, orange, yellow, etc.). KILLING T.: 0 to -5°C depending on the cultivar, var. sinensis withstands -5°C, whereas the leaves of var. assamica are killed by 0°C. GROWING PERIOD: Perennial. Harvest of leaves may begin after 2-5 years and reaches a maximum at 7-10 years. The growth cycle is 240-365 days, fruits takes 270-360 days to mature and seeds are normally produced after 4-5 years. The economic life of the plant is about 40 years, but sometimes the shrubs are kept in production 60-70, or even 100 years. COMMON NAMES: Tea, The, Te, Tee, Tsa. FURTHER INF.: Scientific synonyms: C. thea, C. theifera, Thea sinensis, T. bohea, T. viridis. Tea can be grown in subtropical lowland and up to about 1800 m or even 2400-3000 m in the tropics, but the majority of the production takes place between 750 and 1500 m. Tea originates in the mountains of Southeast Asia, it is now grown between 40°N and 33°S. Hail can cause great damage and windbreaks are beneficial. To low and too high humidity can reduce yields and encourage disease. Harvesting: Terminal sprouts with 2-3 leaves are usually hand-plucked, 10 kg of green shoots (75-80% water) produce about 2.5 kg of dried tea. Bushes are plucked every 7-15 days, depending on the development of the tender shoots. One ton of tea removes 45-60 kg N, 4-7 kg P and 20-30 kg K from the field. Optimum yield is about 3.0 t/ha, in Africa average yields are between 0.5-2.0 t/ha. Because most tea plants are grown on hillsides, erosion control is often necessary.
Purdue NewCROP
Plants For A Future
Sims D (pers. comm.)
Landon J 1984 pp 282 307 [TEXT, DRA, LIMIT, PH, FER, TEMP]
Sys C 1984 pp 70
Rehm S 1991 pp 253-258 [TEMP, RAIN, KTMP, DEP, DRA, PH, FER]
Roecklein J 1987 pp 24 [USE]
Kozlowski T 1977 pp 333
Williams C 1979 pp 113-125 [LIG, TEMP, RAIN, LIMIT, TEXT, PH]
Williams C 1979a pp 68-75 [TEMP, PHO, RAIN, DEP, PH]
Purseglove J 1974 pp 599-612 [TEMP, RAIN, DEP, DRA, PH, LIMIT]
Kernick M 1961 pp 373
Onwueme I 1991 pp 430-437 [RAIN, TEMP, LIMIT, DEP, DRA, PH]
Voortman R 1994 (pers. comm.)
Lotschert W 1981 pp 202-203 [TEMP, RAIN]
Zabala N 1990 pp 151-160 [TEMP, RAIN, TEXT, PH, FER, DRA, LIG, USE]