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Camellia Sinensis: The Tea Plant


While teatime was a cherished childhood ritual with my Grandma growing up, it was the sensory experience of walking through row upon row of fragrant tea plants on a tea estate that solidified my love of tea from field to cup.

Perhaps, like me you've been exploring the tea world through books, trying a new type of tea from time to time or reading up online?  And just maybe you've been wondering, dreaming of growing your own tea and blending it into the perfect brew?

This is my story and I've also come to learn that it is many of yours.  So together let's begin our weekly blog series, The Signature Joy Of Tea.  In March and April we will be welcoming beauty and grace into our days through the culture and hospitality of tea.  Empowering you to live the life of your tea dreams.

March 7th: Camellia Sinensis
March 14th: Tea Cultivation
March 21st: Tea Harvesting
March 28th: Tea Processing
April 4th: How To Brew The Perfect Cup Of Tea
April 11th: Blending Herbal Infusions
April 18th: Tea Tasting With A Tea Sommelier
April 25th: Teatime Hospitality

Camellia sinensis, or the tea plant is a type of evergreen shrub native to Asia.  Its leaves and buds are used to produce the beverage we call tea.  If you have never had the opportunity to see a tea plant in real life, perhaps you have seen its beautiful flowering cousin, the camellia bush (Camellia japonica) used in landscaping?  They look quite similar in appearance ~ but, not in taste!

In order to study and learn about plants, Botanists (plant scientists) have created a system for classifying (or organizing) plants.  Here is the scientific classification of the tea plant:

Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperm
Clase: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Theacae
Genus: Camellia
Species: C. Sinensis

Tea plants have deep taproots, a thin truck and many branches which produce both fruit and flowers.  The leaves are about 3.5 inches long with slightly serrated edges, dark emerald in color and leathery to the touch.  The flowers are about 1.25 inches long, white with a light-yellow pollen in the center and an aromatic fragrance.  The fruit is brownish green and contains seeds that help to germinate new plants.


There are 3 main varieties of tea plants:
1.  Camellia sinensis sinensis is native to China and thrives in cool temperatures and high elevations.  It is commonly grown on mountain slopes.  This variety is thought to be the most ancient variety used in tea cultivation.  Its productive life is relatively long and can last well over 100 years.

2.  Camellis sinensis assamica was discovered by Scottish Major Robert Bruce in Assam, India.  It is suited to a tropical climate, being grown mainly on plains and in regions with abundant rainfall.  Its productive life is shorter and lasts no longer than 40 to 50 years.

3.  Camellia sinensis cambodiensis is known as the java bush.  While it is not used to make tea, it is commonly used crossbred plant cultivars.

Interested in exploring more about Camellia sinensis and touring a tea plantation yourself?  Here are some of my favorite resources:

Tea Plantation Tours:

Fairhope Tea Plantation (Alabama)

Big Island Tea (Hawaii)

Mauna Kea (Hawaii)

Onomea Tea (Hawaii)

Table Rock Tea (South Carolina)  

Charleston Tea Plantation (South Carolina)  

Gracefully Yours Fine Tea Company (Washington)  


Live Tea Plant Retailers:

Tsubaki Tea

Camellia Forest Tea Gardens 

Table Rock Tea  


 Fast Growing Trees

Brighter Blooms

Territorial Seed


Tea Plant Seed Retailers:

Camellia Forest Tea Gardens  

Table Rock Tea  


Tea Documentary:

Charleston Tea Plantation Tour  



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  • Kristin on

    It’s like our own online tea garden club! Looking forward to learning how to grow tea and planning an excursion to a tea plantation this year!

  • Karen on

    This series is off to an incredible start. Looking forward to joining you for this journey and learning how to grow tea!

  • Julie on

    So excited to make my tea growing dream come true!

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