|Camellia sinensis foliage|
Camellia sinensis is a species of evergreen shrub or small tree whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce tea. It is of the genus Camellia (Chinese: 茶花; pinyin: Cháhuā, literally: "tea flower") of flowering plants in the family Theaceae. Common names include "tea plant", "tea shrub", and "tea tree" (not to be confused with Melaleuca alternifolia, the source of tea tree oil, or Leptospermum scoparium, the Mānuka or New Zealand Teatree from which Mānuka Honey is derived).
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and its subspecies, Camellia sinensis var. assamica, are two major varieties grown today. White tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, dark tea (which includes pu-erh tea) and black tea are all harvested from one or the other, but are processed differently to attain varying levels of oxidation. Kukicha (twig tea) is also harvested from Camellia sinensis, but uses twigs and stems rather than leaves.
Carl Linnaeus chose his name in 1753 for the genus to honor Kamel's contributions to botany (although Kamel did not discover or name this plant, or any Camellia, and Linnaeus did not consider this plant a Camellia but a Thea).
Four varieties of Camellia sinensis are recognized. Of these, C. sinensis var. sinensis and C. sinensis var. assamica (JW Masters) Kitamura are most commonly used for tea, and C. sinensis var. pubilimba Hung T. Chang and C. sinensis var. dehungensis (Hung T. Chang & BH Chen) TL Ming are sometimes used locally.
Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is usually trimmed to below 2 m (6.6 ft) when cultivated for its leaves. It has a strong taproot. The flowers are yellow-white, 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.57 in) in diameter, with 7 to 8 petals.
The seeds of Camellia sinensis and Camellia oleifera can be pressed to yield tea oil, a sweetish seasoning and cooking oil that should not be confused with tea tree oil, an essential oil that is used for medical and cosmetic purposes, and originates from the leaves of a different plant.
The leaves are 4–15 cm (1.6–5.9 in) long and 2–5 cm (0.79–1.97 in) broad. Fresh leaves contain about 4% caffeine, as well as related compounds including theobromine. The young, light green leaves are preferably harvested for tea production; they have short white hairs on the underside. Older leaves are deeper green. Different leaf ages produce differing tea qualities, since their chemical compositions are different. Usually, the tip (bud) and the first two to three leaves are harvested for processing. This hand picking is repeated every one to two weeks.
Camellia sinensis is mainly cultivated in tropical and subtropical climates, in areas with at least 127 cm (50 inches) of rainfall a year. Tea plants prefer a rich and moist growing location in full to part sun, and can be grown in hardiness zones 7 – 9. However, the clonal one is commercially cultivated from the equator to as far north as Cornwall and Scotland on the UK mainland. Many high quality teas are grown at high elevations, up to 1,500 meters (4,900 feet), as the plants grow more slowly and acquire more flavour.
Tea plants will grow into a tree if left undisturbed, but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking. Two principal varieties are used, the small-leaved Chinese variety plant (C. sinensis sinensis) and the large-leaved Assamese plant (C. sinensis assamica), used mainly for black tea.
The Chinese plant (sometimes called C. sinensis var. sinensis) is a small-leafed bush with multiple stems that reaches a height of some 3 meters. It is native to southeast China. The first tea plant to be discovered, recorded and used to produce tea 3,000 years ago, it yields some of the most popular teas.
C. sinensis var. waldenae was considered a different species, Camellia waldenae by SY Hu, but it was later identified as a variety of C. sinensis. This variety is commonly called Waldenae Camellia. It is seen on Sunset Peak and Tai Mo Shan in Hong Kong. It is also distributed in Guangxi province, China.
Three main kinds of tea are produced in India:
Although health benefits have been assumed throughout the history of using Camellia sinensis as a common beverage, there is no high-quality evidence that tea confers significant benefits. In clinical research over the early 21st century, tea has been studied extensively for its potential to lower the risk of human diseases, but none of this research is conclusive as of 2017.
Caffeine is a molecule produced in Camellia sinensis and functions as a secondary metabolite. Caffeine is a purine alkaloid and its biosynthesis occurs in young tea leaves and is regulated by several enzymes. The biosynthetic pathway in C. sinensis differs from other caffeine producing plants such as coffee or guyausa. Analysis of the pathway was carried out by harvesting young leaves and using reverse transcription PCR to analyze the genes encoding the major enzymes involved in synthesizing caffeine. The gene TCS1 encodes caffeine synthase, S-adenosyl-L-methionine synthase encoding for SAM. Younger leaves feature high degrees of TSC1 transcripts, allowing more caffeine to be synthesized during this time. Phosphorylation of xanthosine-5'-monophosphate into xanthosine is the committed step for the xanthosines entering the beginning of the most common pathway. The enzyme S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) helps catalyze xanthosine into 7-methylxanthosine, and the resulting product is converted into 7-methylxanthine through the enzymatic action of 7-methylxanthosine nucleosidase. Caffeine synthase, also referred to as TSC1, catalyzes the conversion of 7-methylxanthine to theobromine, as well as the final conversion of theobromine to caffeine.
Georg Jeoseph Kamel, whose name in Latin was Camellus was missionary to the Philippines, died in Manilla in 1706. […] Camellias were named in posthumous honor of George Joseph Kamel by Carolus Linnæus.
It is speculated that he never saw a camellia.
The first edition of Linnaeus's Species Plantarum published in 1753 suggested calling the tea plant Thea sinensis...
The generic names Thea L. (Sp. Pl.: 515. 24 Mai 1753), and Camellia L. (Sp. Pl.: 698. 16 August 1753; Gen. Pl., ed. 5: 311. 1754), are treated as having been published simultaneously on 1 May 1753. … the combined genus bears the name Camellia, since Sweet (Hort. Suburb. Lond.: 157. 1818), who was the first to unite the two genera, chose that name, and cited Thea as a synonym.
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