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Camellia sinensis (tea)

Tea is the most important non-alcoholic beverage in the world, and over three million tonnes are grown annually.
Camellia sinensis

Flowers of Camellia sinensis

Species information

Scientific name: 

Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze

Common name: 

tea (English); cha, chai (Hindi); thayilai (Tamil)

Conservation status: 

It is not clear whether a truly 'wild' plant still exists.



Key Uses: 

A major beverage which has given rise to a variety of social conventions in different parts of the world (such as tea ceremonies in Japan, and the concept of a 'tea break' in Britain); also used medicinally as a stimulant.

Known hazards: 

Tea contains caffeine, theophylline and aminophylline, which can cause undesirable side-effects if consumed in large quantities.


Genus: Camellia

About this species

Tea is a shrub, grown for a hot drink made from its leaves. It is appreciated for its stimulant properties and health benefits, and as the centre of social rituals such as the Japanese tea ceremony and British teatime. Two varieties are recognised; Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (Chinese tea) and C. sinensis var. assamica (Assam tea, Indian tea). For centuries it was thought that black and green teas came from different plants. In fact they come from the same species, but black tea is fermented.

Overproduction of tea in recent years has led to falling tea prices and a poor wage for workers. Fair Trade tea producers pay suppliers a higher price and this leads to better pay for workers. Consumers are now beginning to favour Fair Trade products.


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