Tea is a rainforest shrub indigenous to tropical and sub-tropical Asia. The tea plant is a member of the Camellia family and has dainty, perfumed white flowers.
For commercial reasons, the tea industry recognises only two forms of tea; the China and Assam (Indian) varieties.
China tea bush (Camellia Sinensis)
The China tea bush produces small tea leaves and will develop into a shrub of 20 feet if untended. It is a hardy, multi-stemmed slow growing shrub which is indigenous to China but now cultivated in India, Nepal and elsewhere.
The leaves are dark green, glossy and small – measuring between 1 and 4 inches.
The Camellia Sinensis yields less than the Assam variety but is highly valued for its character and flavour. It can withstand hot droughts and severe winters.
Assam tea bush (Camellia Assamica)
The Assam tea bush produces large leaves of up to 8 inches and can grow to 55 feet. It is quick growing and loosely branched.
Assam tea leaves are light green and glossy, and renowned for their liquor strength.