The Amazing and Versatile Camellia Sinensis

Most true tea comes from one plant, the Camellia sinensis which is part of the evergreen family. The leaves are glossy green with serrated edges. When allowed to flower, the plant produces small white flower with bright yellow stamens.

Flowering is prevented during cultivation by harvesting the leaves and forcing the plant to constantly make more buds. There are two primary varieties of Camellia sinensis used for tea and a third which isn't.

Camellia sinensis

The Camellia sinensis plant strain is from China and is usually used to make green tea and white tea. This variety is also used to make some black teas and oolong teas.

This Chinese grown plant grows the best in cool temperatures on steep mountain slopes. Thriving at elevations up to 9,500 feet, the plant will typically grow to between 5 and 15 feet tall, if left unattended, and produces leaves up to two inches long. The short mountain growing seasons yield a smaller crop of more tender leaves that yield a sweeter, less astringent cup.

To allow easier plucking of the new growth, the Camellia sinensis is usually pruned to be waist high with a flat top. Because of the climate, the growing season is half of the year, at most. The plant will typically yield no more than five pluckings a year. The China plant will be dormant during the winters.

During the dormant winter the plant stores up its energy and nutrients which ensures the spring “flush” of new growth provides some of the finest teas on earth with the highest concentrations of desirable flavors and essential elements that provide the health benefits in tea.

Camellia sinensis assamica

The Camellia sinensis assamica strain is native to the Assam region in India. This strain is usually used to produce black tea, as well as pu erh tea in Yunnan province, China.

High humidity, generous rainfall, and warm temperatures allow this larger, more robust tea variety to thrive. The Assamica plant will grow to between 30 and 60 feet if left unattended and produce much larger leaves.

Under perfect conditions, the Assamica plant can be harvested every 8 to 12 days throughout the year. Because of the tremendous yields, it is the preferred crop in Northeast India, Sri Lanka and Africa. The unique climate in Sri Lanka allows the harvest from this hardy bush to continue year-round.

The Assamica leaf is ideal for producing strong, malty black teas, as well as other Chinese teas that require longer production, as in the case of oolong and pu-erh.

Camellia sinensis cambodiensis

The third variety is Camellia sinensis cambodiensis (Java Bush), which has been crossbred to achieve certain traits in other cultivars. The Java Bush isn't typically used in commercial tea production.

At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn't to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.

Comments (3) -

  • Dennis

    6/11/2015 2:13:55 PM |

    An excellent and very informative article. I'm new to tea drinking and was happy to find a site that explains every aspect of tea blends and tea drinking in a simple and easy to understand way. Being an American born and raised I always thought that tea drinking was basically only for rich British people lol.

    It was interesting to find out all of the health benefits and enjoyment available in a single cup of tea. Also since I was a coffee drinker I figured I'd have to give up my normal caffeine jolt for flavor. I'm glad to find out I can have the best of both worlds.

    After reading several of your posts I had to order your Black Tea Sampler and I loved it! You have a customer for life.

  • Emily

    6/11/2015 4:10:08 PM |

    I agree! I never realized that all tea, for the most part, comes from the same plant. However, to be honest with you, I've never really knew that much about tea in general. Most retailers I've visited have seemed like they were only interested in taking my money and sending me on my way with as little effort to themselves as necessary.

    Not true with ESP. I've been a customer for about a year now and I don't have a single complaint. Sure, no one is perfect, I had one shipped that wound up lost, which wound up not even being their fault, but Steve bent over backward to make things right and even sent me some samples to apologize.

    In this age of faceless retailers, you guys really show that there are still a few merchants out there who still add a little old-fashioned attention to detail that makes it a pleasure to do business with you.

  • James

    6/13/2015 10:43:45 AM |

    Awesome informative article thank you for sharing it and keep up the great work. I'm a new customer and I was pretty impressed with the quality of your product and the care shown to customer service, now I'm impressed with your informative articles. I will be sure to check back often.

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