Growing organic tea
The tea plant is an evergreen shrub with shiny, dark-green leaves and delicate, yellow-white flowers. It belongs to the camellia plant family, and grows at altitudes of 600 to 2700 metres.
Organic tea is produced from two main varieties of tea plant. The first is camellia sinensis: a shrub that thrives in the cool, mountainous areas of China and Japan. The camellia sinensis plant has delicate, narrow leaves, and usually grows no taller than three or four metres. It’s a hardy plant that can withstand frost, and even minor droughts, without suffering too much damage.
The second variety is camellia assamica – a plant that, as its name suggests, originates from the Assam region of India. The camellia assamica is a tropical plant with larger, broader leaves than the camellia sinensis. It is less hardy than its narrow-leaved cousin, and grows best in a hot, moist climate – making it perfect for cultivation in the monsoon regions of northeastern India and southern China. Left unpruned, the camellia assamica can grow to 15 or 20 metres in height.
In recent years, a third variety of tea plant has emerged. It is a cross between the camellia sinensis and the camellia assamica, and has aromatic leaves that sit somewhere between these two varieties in their size. As a robust plant that’s less sensitive to the cold, this variety grows well in harsher conditions.
A recipe for organic tea success
When it comes to tea flavour and quality, it goes without saying that the tea plant plays a major role. But it doesn’t work alone. Growing region, altitude and climate all play their part, as do the condition of the soil and the level of exposure to sunlight. Then there is the skill involved in pruning, and the expertise required to pick and process those precious organic tea leaves.
Get these ingredients right, and the result is an organic tea that’s delicious in its taste and unrivalled in its quality. What’s more, with so many variables at play, there’s a virtually limitless variety of top-rate organic teas to choose from.