How Tea is Grown

The genus Camellia, to which the tea plant Camellia Sinensis belongs, includes some of our most sought after ornamental plants. The flowers of most Camellia species have no exceptional fragrance which is attractive to humans. The leaves however hold the plants true value, and of those the three newest or youngest at the end of the branchlet are held in the highest regard. These are called the flowery orange pekoe leaf (the bud leaf), the orange pekoe leaf (the second leaf from the top) and the pekoe leaf (the third leaf from the top). In combination, these three leaves are called the flush or the “fine pluck.” From the fourth leaf down, the pick or pluck is called the “course pluck.”

The tea plant is the only Camellia whose bud leaves produce the delicate flavor most discerning tea drinkers are accustomed to experiencing. Because of this, and in the past, plant taxonomists gave it a separate ranking, in the genus, of Thea Sinensis. The species name sinensis is Latin for Chinese. Thus, its original name, thea sinensis, is suggestive of the interpretation of “tea of China,” perhaps because the first recorded mention of tea is from China and is dated around the year 350 C.E.

The tea plant, which is a broad-leafed evergreen, grows best in areas where weather patterns range from temperate to tropic -- and like other camellia plants, grows well in many parts of the United States where weather fits its needs. In fact, tea production has been tried in the United States (there is still one active and productive Tea Estate here). Most of the tea plants were introduced into this country during the last century, but commercial production did not prove practical since tea requires an extreme amount of hand labor and picking “talent.” Additionally, the manufacture of high quality tea requires a great deal of tea professionalism and that did not exist in the United States. Furthermore, tea produced in the United States of America, because of the higher pay scale, cost anywhere from 4 to 9 times more than that produced in traditional tea-producing countries.