The genus Camellia was named by the Swedish Botanist, Carolus Linnaeus.
He developed the binomial system of plant naming that is still in
use today. The genus Camellia was named in honour of a 17th century
Jesuit missionary, Joseph Kamel, which is Camellus in Latin. All
of the 267 recorded species within the genus originated from Asia,
where they had many uses, including ornamental, cosmetic, and culinary
(e.g. in tea blends). They are also a source of oil and provide
fuel in the form of high-grade charcoal.
Camellia sinensis, the tea plant, is used to make tea.
Tea leaves in general consist of polyphenols, mainly flavonoids
(water-soluble plant pigments), vitamins, volatile oils, and caffeine.
The flavonoids, especially catechin or epigallocatechin gallate,
are known to contain potent antioxidant as well as anti-cancer substances.
They also protect against digestive and respiratory infections.
Tea is also well known for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial,
anti-thrombotic (stops the formation of a blood clot within a blood
vessel) effects and cholesterol lowering properties. It assists
in weight loss by speeding up fat oxidation, and lowers high blood
pressure. The health benefits gained from drinking all categories
of tea are comparable. It is a perfectly natural health drink, and
when consumed on its own it has no calories.
Plants need to be grown in humus-rich, porous soils that are slightly
acidic (pH 5.5-6.5). They also need good sunlight and high humidity
with temperatures below 15°C in winter and plenty of shade in
summer. When Camellias are grown in pots the best practice is to
use a general potting mix containing 500 g of 12-14 month slow release
fertiliser in 200 L of bark and 50 L of sand. Repot every two years.
Do not water if the soil feels moist. Prune after flowering, before
spring growth begins. Camellias thrive well without fertilisers.
However, fertilisers, such as well-rotted cow and sheep manure or
blood, can be applied in early spring. Alternatively, ericaceous
fertiliser can be applied once in early spring at a rate half that
recommended on the label to improve growth and flower vigour.
Roll freshly picked leaves from C. sinensis (tea plant)
between your hands until the leaves darken and crinkle, allowing
the fermentation process to begin. Do not break the leaves into
pieces because the leachate from the broken leaves will give the
tea a bitter taste. Place thin layers of leaves on a tray in the
shade for 2-3 days. Then dry the leaves in an oven at 106°C
for 20 minutes to remove all excess water and stop the fermentation
process. Store in an airtight container or use straightaway. Brew
one teaspoon of dry leaves for each cup in water that has just begun
to produce small bubbles. Leave for 2-3 minutes. Serve or pour off
all liquid to avoid over steeping.