Terminal sprouts with 2-3 leaves are usually hand-plucked, 10 kg of green shoots (75-80% water) produce about 2.5 kg dried tea. The bushes are plucked every 7-15 days, depending on the development of the tender shoots. Leaves that are slow in development always make a better flavoured product. Various techniques are used to produce black teas, usually during July and August when solar heat is most intense. Freshly picked leaves are spread very thinly and evenly on trays and placed in the sun until the leaves become very flaccid, requiring 13 hours or more, depending on heat and humidity. Other types of black teas are made by withering the leaves, rolling them into a ball and allowing to ferment in a damp place for 3-6 hours, at which time the ball turns a yellowish copper colour, with an agreeable fruity one. If this stage goes too far, the leaves become sour and unfit for tea. After fermenting, the ball is broken up and the leaves spread out on trays and dried in oven until leaves are brittle and have slight odour of tea. Tea is then stored in air-tight tin boxes or cans. As soon as harvested, leaves are steamed or heated to dry the natural sap and prevent oxidation to produce green tea. Still soft and pliable after the initial treatment, the leaves are then rolled and subjected to further firing. Thus dried, the leaves are sorted into various grades of green tea. The flowers are made into 'tempura' using the edible oil that is obtained from the seed. A clear golden-yellow edible oil resembling sasanqua oil is obtained from the seed. The oil needs to be refined before it is eaten. An essential oil distilled from the fermented dried leaves is used as a commercial food flavouring. Tea extract is used as a flavour in alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatines, and puddings.Tea is a potential source of food colours (black, green, orange, yellow, etc.).
A non-drying oil is obtained from the seeds. Refined teaseed oil, made by removing the free fatty acids with caustic soda, then bleaching the oil with Fuller's earth and a sprinkling of bone black, makes an oil suitable for use in manufacture of sanctuary or signal oil for burning purposes, and in all respects is considered a favourable substitute for rapeseed, olive, or lard oils. The oil is different from cottonseed, corn, or sesame oils in that it is a non-drying oil and is not subject to oxidation changes, thus making it very suitable for use in the textile industry; it remains liquid below -18deg.C. A grey dye is obtained from the pink or red petals. The leaves contain 13 - 18% tannin. The leaves also contain quercetin, a dyestuff that, when found in other plants, is much used as a dye. The quantity of quercetin is not given[K].Wood - moderately hard, close and even grained. It is very good for walking sticks.
The leaves are cardiotonic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant and astringent. They exert a decided influence over the nervous system, giving a feeling of comfort and exhilaration, but also producing an unnatural wakefulness when taken in large doses. They are used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis and gastro-enteritis. Tea is reportedly effective in clinical treatment of amoebic dysentery, bacterial dysentery, gastro-enteritis, and hepatitis. It has also been reported to have antiatherosclerotic effects and vitamin P activity. Excessive use, however, can lead to dizziness, constipation, constipation, indigestion, palpitations and insomnia. Externally, they are used as a poultice or wash to treat cuts, burns, bruises, insect bites, ophthalmia, swellings etc. Only the very young leaves and leaf buds are used, these can be harvested throughout the growing season from plants over three years old and are dried for later use.Teabags have been poulticed onto baggy or tired eyes, compressed onto headache, or used to bathe sunburn.
There are approximately 500 seeds per kilo. Cuttings of almost ripe wood, 10 - 15cm with a heel, August/September in a shaded frame. High percentage but slow. Cuttings of firm wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, end of June in a frame. Keep in a cool greenhouse for the first year.Leaf-bud cuttings, July/August in a frame.
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Prefers a woodland soil but thrives in a warm open well-drained loam if leafmould is added. A calcifuge plant, preferring a pH between 5 and 7. Prefers the partial shade of a light woodland or a woodland clearing. Forms grown in this country are slow-growing. Tea is reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 70 to 310cm, an average annual temperature range of 14 to 27°C and a pH in the range of 4.5 to 7.3.
This species is not hardy in the colder areas of the country, it tolerates temperatures down to between -5 and -10°c. It prefers a wet summer and a cool but not very frosty dry winter. The fragrant flowers are very attractive to insects, particularly moths. Plants are not very self-compatible, self-fertilized flowers produce few seeds and these are of low viability. A very ornamental plant, it is widely cultivated in tropical and warm temperate areas for its leaves which are used to make China tea. There are many named varieties and new hardier forms are being produced in China for growing in colder areas of the country. The Chinese form, known as 'Hsüeh-ch'a', is said to grow in areas within the snow limit on the mountains of Lingchiangfu in Yunnan province.