About The Tea Plant

The leaves which so luckily blew into the Chinese imperial boiling water in 2737 BC were probably from the tea bush known botanically as Camellia sinensis. In his 1753 work Genera Plantar um, the botanist Linnaeus included all teas under the name Thea sinensis, recognising two camellias: Camellia japonica and Camellia sassanqua.

Linnaeus identified two varieties of tea, Thea viridis (or 'green') and Thea bohea, after the range of mountains from where black tea was thought to have come. The term camellia honoured a Moravian Jesuit, Came - or, in Latin, Camellus - who wrote a learned seventeenth century treatise on Asian plants.

Since Linnaeus, botanical debate has raged over tea's true botanical orgins. Botanists believe the hardy evergreen was originally native to the wild and mountainous borders of China, India and Burma. And it is now generally accepted that Camellia and Thea are members of the same genus - Camellia - from the Theaceae family, of which seven species (from an approximate 240) produce infusions.

Many different Camellia ecotypes exist, from the bushy sinensis to the rangy Assam tea trees. There are now recognised, however, three principal genetically-related strains: Camellia sinensis, which thrives in China, Tibet and Japan, is resistant to very cold temperatures and grows to a height of around fifteen feet; Camellia assamica, from north-east India, is considered more a tree than a bush, and often reaches forty feet; and the Cambodian variety Camellia assamica subspecies lasiocalyx, also a tree, grows to around fifteen feet