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tea shrub - camellia sinensis - dried tea

Tea shrub, Camellia sinensis

I’ve been dreading starting on the tea bush, Camellia sinensis, monograph, because there is so much to say about it. It’s almost impossible not to overlook things worth mentioning. So forgive me if something is missing. Tea is definitely a plant that belongs in a medicinal plant handbook. Even if it is written by a wise woman who prefers using native plant, which tea definitely is not.

The tea shrub is native to Southeast Asia. It now grows in many more areas of the world, but here in Western Europe you still see it mainly in greenhouses and orangeries. Fortunately, nowadays there’s a variant that does well in our climate as well. It’s still complicated to produce tea yourself – a lot of work as well – but once you know how to do it, there are many health benefits to be gained.

Tea mainly helps against disorders related to degenerative processes. Think of signs of aging and the like, but also of external influences such as radiation and chemotherapy as used against cancer. Speaking of cancer, by now there’s a lot of evidence that tea reduces the risk of various types of cancers. Other strong positive effects are seen against diseases of the heart and blood vessels and the central nervous system. And that’s only mentioning a fraction of the indications that can be treated with tea.

Magical properties attributed to tea mainly deal with wealth and strength. Tea can, for instance, be used to attract money. If you need courage, tea is also a useful plant. All in all, the tea bush is definitely a plant to get to know more closely. In this monograph I’ll tell you more about it.

Botanical description

The tea bush stands on a sturdy taproot and is a woody and highly branched shrub of which the height depends on the variety. The sinensis stays relatively small, up to a height of about 5 meters. The assamica grows faster and can reach a height of 20 meters. By pruning the plant and keeping it at about chest height, you can create an easy-to-harvest plant with many branches and therefore leaves and buds. This also prevents the plants from blooming.
The leaves are alternate on the branch and are stalked. They are elongated with a serrated edge, dark green in colour and leathery with fine hairs on the underside. They are up to 5 cm wide and up to 15 cm long on the sinensis and up to 30 cm long on the assamica.
The flowers are white or white-pink and are located in the leaf axil. On the sinensis these flowers stand alone, on the assamica they are grouped. The flowers are not very conspicuous, have 6 to 9 petals and many yellow stamens. They are up to 4 cm in size. After flowering, bilocular or trilocular woody capsules are formed with up to 2 round seeds per locule.

Interesting facts

Please note: the health benefits mentioned only apply to green and white tea. Other teas still have certain benefits, but are significantly lower in polyphenols and flavonoids. Black tea is not very suitable for therapeutic purposes.
When preparing both green and white teas, it is essential that the water is not too hot.
You can start harvesting from a tea bush when the plant is 3 years old. What you harvest are the young shoots. They consist of the 2 or 3 young leaves and a growth bud located at the end of a branch.
I just mentioned green and white tea. Both of these teas, like black tea, come from the same plant. Want to know the differences? On this website it is briefly explained.
You can make different colours for dyeing fabric using tea.

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