1. Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant that
grows mainly in tropical and sub-tropical climates. However, some varieties can
also tolerate marine climates and are cultivated as far north as Cornwall on the
UK mainland and Seattle in the United States.
2. In addition to zone 8 or warmer, it requires at least
50 inches of rainfall a year, and prefers acidic soils. Many high quality tea
plants grow at elevations up to 5,000 ft, as the plants grow more slowly and
acquire a better flavor.
3. Only the top 1-2 inches of the mature plant are picked.
These buds and leaves are called flushes, and a plant will grow a new
flush every seven to ten days during the growing season.
4. Tea plants will grow into a tree if left undisturbed,
but cultivated plants are pruned to waist height for ease of plucking.
5. Two principal varieties are used, the small-leaved China
plant (C. sinensis sinensis) and the large-leaved Assam plant (C.
sinensis assamica). Leaf size is the chief criterion for the classification
of tea plants. Based upon this criterion, tea is classified into (1) Assam type
characterized by the largest leaves, (2) China type characterized by the
smallest leaves and (3) Cambod characterized by leaves of intermediate size.
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