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Tea Camellia sinensis

Leaves from Camellia sinensis are used to make tea - the most important non-alcoholic beverage in the world. The plant is native to mainland China, South and Southeast Asia, but today it is cultivated across the world. An evergreen shrub with yellow-white flowers, this collection is from Tanzania.

Tea is a shrub, grown for a hot drink made from its leaves. Two varieties are recognised; Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (Chinese tea) and Camellia sinensis var. assamica (Assam tea, Indian tea). It is the most important non-alcoholic beverage in the world, and over three million tonnes of tea are grown annually.

The origin of tea is not clear. Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is probably native to western Yunnan, while Camellia sinensis var. assamica is native to the warmer parts of Assam (India), Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China.
 
There is written evidence from the T'ang dynasty in AD 650 that tea was being cultivated in most of the provinces of China and that the process of making tea was well established. 
 
Tea was introduced into Japan in about 600 AD by Buddhist priests returning home after studying in China. During the 8th and 9th centuries its use was widespread in courtly and monastic circles and a tea culture developed. By the 1330s and onwards, all Japanese social classes drank tea. 
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