Chase, Mark W. Molecular Systematics Section, Jodrell Laboratory, Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Surrey, United Kingdom.
Cook, A. A. Department of Plant Pathology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.
Last reviewed:July 2020
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- Tea production
- Black tea
- Green tea
- Oolong tea
- Instant tea
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A small tree or shrub (Camellia sinensis); a preparation of its leaves that have been dried and cured; and a beverage made from these leaves. The tea plant, Camellia sinensis (alternatively, Thea sinensis), is an evergreen tree of the Theaceae family (order Ericales; formerly assigned to the order Theales) and is native to southeastern Asia. In cultivation, the tree has a more shrublike appearance (Fig. 1), with a height of 0.9–1.2 m (3–4 ft), because of constant pruning. It grows best in a warm climate where the rainfall averages 2250–5000 mm (90–200 in.). The slower growth at higher altitudes improves the flavor. China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Vietnam are among the leading tea-producing countries, with China and India contributing more than one-half of the world's supply. According to Chinese folklore, the Chinese emperor Shennong discovered the use of tea about 2700 BCE. Tea leaves contain caffeine, various tannins, aromatic substances, and other materials of a minor nature, including proteins, gums, and sugars. The tannins provide the astringency, whereas the caffeine provides the stimulating properties of tea. See also: Asia; Caffeine; Ericales; Horticultural crops; Theales
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