From one Camellia to another…
The ornamental Camellia, or Camellia japonica, is in full bloom here in Jersey, with the first buds breaking in December, which seems precocious, if not foolhardy! It’s a constant reminder of how well the hardy plant does here and, looking back, it always bode well for its sister species – Camellia sinensis, the tea bush. 🌱
The family resemblance can be seen in the evergreen, glossy green, serrated leaves. From what I’ve read, the leaves of both species contain caffeine, and both can be used to make tea, but the common Camellia is not used for commercial tea growing. Presumably because the taste is inferior, or perhaps because Camellia sinensis puts more of its energy into producing tips and leaves than flowers.
The picture above shows a Camellia sinensis tea seed and flowers. We spend a bit of time at Jersey Fine Tea knocking off the flowers and seeds from our tea bushes as our focus is quality leaf growth.
One of these days, maybe we’ll stop pruning a few of our tea bushes and let them grow into trees. Then we’d let them expend all their energy on seed production for onward planting in nurseries, as used to be common in Asia.
Nowadays, more tea is grown from clones, or cultivated varieties, which have been developed for particular characteristics, such as their fine flavour, resistance to drought or a preponderance of tips.
For us, in a new growing region, cultivating from seed, which has more genetic variation, is a great way to settle into the business of farming Jersey tea.