Camellia shrubs are a beautiful addition to any garden., but Camellia sinensis is also an edible plant. Newer varieties are being introduced such as 'Sochi,' which are much hardier plants. This is expanding the possibilities to grow tea camellias in the home garden. As gardeners are becoming more sophisticated, there is a growing desire to try unusual plants.
As a Landscape Plant
Camelia sinensis has longer thinner leaves than most garden camellias. The leaves are still glossy and attractive. The smaller flowers have single white petals, and bright yellow stamens. Tea camellia prefers acidic soil, but will grow in neutral soils as well. Like other camellias, hot afternoon sun can burn the leaves. The perfect light situation is full morning sun, and afternoon shade. Camellias need regular summer water. Keep the soil moist, but well drained. Tea camellia is not difficult to grow in USDA hardiness zones 8 and higher.
Dried for Tea
Camellia sinensis is an important agricultural crop in China and Japan. Its common name, tea plant, is suiting, since it is the primary source of green and black tea leaves. Green tea is the leaves dried without fermentation. Black tea is made from the same leaf, but it goes through a fermenting process. There are several well known teas that undergo different levels of fermentation. Oolong (Black dragon) tea, goes through a longer process to develop a mellower taste. Yellow tea is the green tea leaf processed in such a way that turns yellow. Red tea is just another name for black tea. White tea is the most expensive tea made from this plant. The new growth is used, consisting of young leaves and buds. The white hairs on the buds are what give this tea its name. It has a smoother flavor, higher anti-oxidant value, and less caffiene than green and black tea. Flavors can also be transformed by using different aging methods."Gun powder tea," utilizes a method of rolling the leaves into bullet-like pellets before aging them. Producing good tea is a culinary art much like developing fine wine.
Leaf Extract and Oil for Cosmetics
The seeds and leaves of Camellia sinensis are used in cosmetic preparations. The oil is pressed from the mature seeds. This oil is easily absorbed into hair and skin, without leaving a greasy film. It can be applied alone, or added to lotions and hair conditioners. The oil contains vitamins A, B, C, D and E, as well as amino acids helpful for healthy skin and hair. An extract can also be made from the green tea leaves and used for similar cosmetic purposes. Green tea extract has high amounts of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These components are useful for soothing skin irritations and aid the fight against aging skin.