The Tea Plant
Of the plethora of varieties available in today’s market it is difficult to believe that all teas, regardless of style, come from a single plant: the Camellia Sinensis. There are many sub varieties of the evergreen shrub, but the most common, and the variety from which teas are most often derived, is the white flowering Camellia Sinensis var. sinensis. The second most commonly found variety in garden centers in the US is the Camellia Sinensis var. rosea, which has pink blooms.
Native to China, Camellia Sinensis was originally only grown in the Yunnan province. The province’s Ancient Tea Forest is considered the first tea garden and contains tea plants that are said to be up to 3,000 years old.
Tea estates typically focus on a single style of processing. Elevation, moisture, soil conditions, and other environmental conditions will determine which style of tea is produced in a given area. The plants themselves prefer a hot and humid environment. They grow fastest at elevations greater than 650 feet above sea level, in hot temperatures, with 80-150 inches of rainfall annually. They can also be found in shade or in higher elevations, however, they will grow more slowly.