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Camellia sinensis assamica - (Masters.) Kitam.

Common Name Tea Plant, Assam Tea
Family Theaceae
USDA hardiness 8-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Cool, humid, tropical highlands[ 307 ]. Evergreen broad-leaved forests at elevations of 100 - 1,500 metres, occasionally to 1,900 metres in southern China[ 266 ].
Range E. Asia - China? Exact origin is uncertain.
Edibility Rating    (4 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Half Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Camellia sinensis assamica Tea Plant, Assam Tea

Badagnani wikimedia.org
Camellia sinensis assamica Tea Plant, Assam Tea
Vikramjit Kakati wikimedia.org


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Tea plant or Camellia sinensis var. assmica is an evergreen, multi-stemmed shrub or tree that reaches up to 15 m tall. It is widely cultivated for its leaves which are used to make tea, one of the most common beverages worldwide. The fragrant flowers are made into tempura using the edible oil sourced from the seeds. Fermented dried leaves also yield an essential oil used as commercial food flavouring and in perfumery. Tea plant is as well used medicinally. Based on modern researches, several health benefits can be acquired just by drinking tea like prevention of heart diseases, tooth decay, etc. It is also used as treatment for diarrhoea, dysentery, gastro-enteritis, hepatitis, wounds, burns, bruises, insect bites, etc. If consumed in high quantity, however, tea may cause dizziness, constipation, indigestion, palpitation, and insomnia.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Camellia sinensis assamica is an evergreen Shrub growing to 10 m (32ft) by 8 m (26ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 9. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Butterflies, Wasps. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Camellia bohea L. Camellia thea Link. Camellia theifera Griff. Thea bohea L. Thea sinensis L. Thea v

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Leaves  Oil  Seed  Shoots
Edible Uses: Colouring  Drink  Oil  Tea

The leaves are infused in hot water and used as the drink that is commonly known as tea. It is widely drunk in many areas of the world. Green tea is made from the steamed and dried leaves, whilst black tea (the form most commonly drunk in the west) is made from leaves that have been fermented and then dried[ 183 , 238 ]. Known for its body, briskness, malty flavour, and strong, bright colour. Assam teas, or blends containing Assam, are often sold as "breakfast" teas. Tea contains polyphenols, these are antioxidants that help to protect the body against heart diseases, stroke and cancer[ 238 ]. It also contains the stimulant caffeine which, when taken in excess, can cause sleeplessness and irritability and also, through its action as a diuretic, act to remove nutrients from the body. Tea is also rich in tannin and is a possible cause of oesophageal cancer[ 238 ]. Cold tea is sometimes used as a soaking liquid to flavour dried fruit[ 238 ]. One report says that the leaves are used as a boiled vegetable[ 179 ]. The leaves contain about 25.7% protein, 6.5% fat, 40.8% carbohydrate, 5% ash, 3.3% caffeine, 12.9% tannin[ 179 ]. Terminal sprouts with 2-3 leaves are usually hand-plucked, 10 kg of green shoots (75-80% water) produce about 2.5 kg dried tea[ 269 ]. The bushes are plucked every 7-15 days, depending on the development of the tender shoots. Leaves that are slow in development always make a better flavoured product[ 269 ]. Various techniques are used to produce black teas, usually during July and August when solar heat is most intense. Freshly picked leaves are spread very thinly and evenly on trays and placed in the sun until the leaves become very flaccid, requiring 13 hours or more, depending on heat and humidity. Other types of black teas are made by withering the leaves, rolling them into a ball and allowing to ferment in a damp place for 3-6 hours, at which time the ball turns a yellowish copper colour, with an agreeable fruity one[ 269 ]. If this stage goes too far, the leaves become sour and unfit for tea. After fermenting, the ball is broken up and the leaves spread out on trays and dried in oven until leaves are brittle and have slight odour of tea[ 269]. Tea is then stored in air-tight tin boxes or cans. As soon as harvested, leaves are steamed or heated to dry the natural sap and prevent oxidation to produce green tea. Still soft and pliable after the initial treatment, the leaves are then rolled and subjected to further firing. Thus dried, the leaves are sorted into various grades of green tea[ 269 ]. The flowers are made into 'tempura' using the edible oil that is obtained from the seed[ 183 ]. A clear golden-yellow edible oil resembling sasanqua oil is obtained from the seed[ 183 , 269 ]. The oil needs to be refined before it is eaten. An essential oil distilled from the fermented dried leaves is used as a commercial food flavouring[ 238 ]. Tea extract is used as a flavour in alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatines, and puddings[ 269 ]. Tea is a potential source of food colours (black, green, orange, yellow, etc.)[ 269 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Astringent  Cardiotonic  Diuretic  Dysentery  Expectorant  Ophthalmic  Poultice  
Skin  Stimulant  Stings

The tea plant is commonly used in Chinese herbalism, where it is considered to be one of the 50 fundamental herbs[ 218 ]. Modern research has shown that there are many health benefits to drinking tea, including its ability to protect the drinker from certain heart diseases. It has also been shown that drinking tea can protect the teeth from decay[ 254 ], because of the fluoride naturally occurring in the tea[ K ]. However, the tea also contains some tannin, which is suspected of being carcinogenic[ 269 ]. The leaves are cardiotonic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and astringent[ 4 , 174 , 192 , 218 , 240 , 269 ]. They exert a decided influence over the nervous system, giving a feeling of comfort and exhilaration, but also producing an unnatural wakefulness when taken in large doses[ 4 ]. They are used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis and gastro-enteritis[ 218 , 238 ]. Tea is reportedly effective in clinical treatment of amoebic dysentery, bacterial dysentery, gastro-enteritis, and hepatitis. It has also been reported to have antiatherosclerotic effects and vitamin P activity[ 269 ]. Excessive use, however, can lead to dizziness, constipation, constipation, indigestion, palpitations and insomnia[ 238 ]. Externally, they are used as a poultice or wash to treat cuts, burns, bruises, insect bites, ophthalmia, swellings etc[ 218 , 238 , 257 ]. Only the very young leaves and leaf buds are used, these can be harvested throughout the growing season from plants over three years old and are dried for later use[ 238 ]. Teabags have been poulticed onto baggy or tired eyes, compressed onto headache, or used to bathe sunburn[ 269 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Essential  Hedge  Houseplant  Oil  Tannin  Teeth  Wood

Other uses rating: Medium (3/5). Small Tree, Specimen, Hedging, Botantical collection, Bonsai, Container, Conservatory. Other Uses: An essential oil is distilled from the fermented and dried leaves[ 238 ]. It is used in perfumery and in commercial food flavouring[ 238 ]. A non-drying oil is obtained from the seeds. Refined teaseed oil, made by removing the free fatty acids with caustic soda, then bleaching the oil with Fuller's earth and a sprinkling of bone black, makes an oil suitable for use in manufacture of sanctuary or signal oil for burning purposes, and in all respects is considered a favourable substitute for rapeseed, olive, or lard oils. The oil is different from cottonseed, corn, or sesame oils in that it is a non-drying oil and is not subject to oxidation changes, thus making it very suitable for use in the textile industry; it remains liquid below -18deg.C[ 269 ]. A grey dye is obtained from the pink or red petals[ 168 ]. The leaves contain 13 - 18% tannin[ 223 ]. The leaves also contain quercetin, a dyestuff that, when found in other plants, is much used as a dye[ 223 ]. The quantity of quercetin is not given[ K ]. Wood - moderately hard, close and even grained. It is very good for walking sticks[ 158 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Hedge  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

A plant of the subtropics and tropics, tea originated in an area of monsoon climates, but has proved amenable to cultivation and is now grown as far north as 42° N and south to Argentina at 27°S[ 303 ]. Depending on latitude, it can be grown at elevations from sea level to 2,300 metres[ 303 ]. Whilst a minimum mean annual rainfall of 1,700mm is required for economic production[ 303 ], the plant is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 700 - 3,500mm[ 269 , 303 ]. Rainfall should not fall below 50 mm per month for any prolonged period[ 303 ]. Generally, optimum temperatures for shoot growth are 18 - 30°c, the base temperature, below which shoot growth stops, is about 12.5°c[ 303 ]. Prefers a woodland soil but thrives in a warm open well-drained loam if leafmould is added[ 1 , 11 , 200 ]. A calcifuge plant, preferring a pH between 5 and 7[ 11 , 200 ]. Prefers a pH of 4.5 - 5.6[ 303 ]. Prefers the partial shade of a light woodland or a woodland clearing[ 166 , 200 ]. Tea is generally more productive without shade, but shade trees may be necessary to reduce air temperatures during hot periods, e.g. In Assam and Bangladesh. Shelter belts of trees planted between fields are beneficial in protecting tea against prevailing strong winds[ 303 ]. Climatic conditions have a great influence on the quality of the tea, especially on the flavour. Fast shoot growth - for instance at low altitudes, during the best part of the growing season or shortly after the bushes have been pruned back - is detrimental to the quality of tea, particularly the flavour, but induces high production. Nevertheless, high yields and excellent quality tea can be obtained in tropical countries on fertile soils, especially at elevations of 1200-1800 m above sea-level. At still higher elevations, the tea will have a well-developed flavour but it will lack strength and yields will be lower[ 303 ]. Plants develop a strong taproot and many lateral roots, giving rise to a dense mat of feeding roots in the top 50 - 75 cm of the soil[ 303 ]. Some lateral roots grow 3 - 4 metres deep[ 303 ]. Flowering starts when tea plants are about 4 years old. In the tropics flowering in non-plucked tea occurs year-round[ 303 ]. The fragrant flowers are pollinated mainly by insects such as moths and bees[ 219 , 303 ]. Only cross-pollination gives good fruit set and seed, especially in var. Assamica, which appears to have a system of self-incompatibility. Fruits take 10-12 months to mature; ripe fruits dehisce the seeds by splitting open from the apex into 3 valves[ 303 ]. The fragrant flowers are very attractive to insects, particularly moths[ 219 ]. Plants are not very self-compatible, self-fertilized flowers produce few seeds and these are of low viability[ 200 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - can be sown as soon as it is ripe[ 113 ]. Stored seed should be pre-soaked for 24 hours in warm water and the hard covering around the micropyle should be filed down to leave a thin covering[ 78 , 113 , 138 ]. It usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 23°c[ 138 ]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade. Plant them out into their permanent positions when they are more than 15cm tall. Seedlings take 4 - 12 years before they start to produce seed[ 269 ]. There are approximately 500 seeds per kilo[ 269 ]. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 10 - 15cm with a heel, in a shaded frame. High percentage but slow[ 78 ]. Cuttings of firm wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, in a frame[ 11 , 78 ]. Leaf-bud cuttings in a frame.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Tea plant, Assam Tea or Camellia sinensis var. assmica. Other Names: Yila, Labao.

TEMPERATE ASIA: Guangdong Sheng, Guangxi Zhuangzu Zizhiqu, Yunnan Sheng (south),China. TROPICAL ASIA: India, Assam, Indochina, Myanmar (north), Thailand (north),

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

None Known

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Masters.) Kitam.

Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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