The Tea Plant
All true tea – this does not include herbal teas – come from a species of Camellia, the Camellia Sinensis. This species has just two varieties typically used in tea production: the China plant from China, and the Assam plant from India and southern China. While tea plants are grown around the world, the Darjeeling region in India is one the few places outside of China where the China plant is successfully grown. Because the Assam plant is hardier and transplants easily, all other tea-growing regions cultivate this sub-variety.
Tea plants are grown as far north as Turkey and as far south as Argentina. The most famous tea-growing regions tend to be located closer to the equator – the Camellia Sinensis grows best in warm, sunny, moist climates with plenty of rainfall. They will grow at sea level or as high as 7000 feet.
In the wild, a tea plant can grow to more than 25 feet in height. When grown for commercial tea production, the plants are usually not allowed to grow beyond three feet in height. They are generally grown from cuttings – ensuring the new plant will have all the positive characteristics of the mother plant. However, they can also be grown from seed. Plants are spaced closely together in the ground and are continually pruned as they grow to prevent blossoming and to encourage new leaf growth.