A white flower with a yellow centre
Camellia oleifera

Tea oil camellia

Family: Theaceae
Other common names: 木梓树, 油茶, 茶泡, 茶耳, 茶苞 (Chinese simplified), 油茶 (Chinese traditional), kamélie olejodárná (Czech), アブラチャ (Japanese), Камелия масличная (Russian)
IUCN Red List status: Least Concern

A close cousin to the tea plant that makes up one of the most popular drinks in the world, the tea oil camellia is not cultivated for its leaves, but rather its seeds.

The seeds are powdered, steamed and then pressed to produce an oil that is used for cooking across China.

Tea seed oil is also used in soaps, body wash and hair oils, as well as in lubricating and rust proofing solutions.

A recent scientific study found that once the oil had been extracted from the seeds, pressed tea oil camellia shells can be used to make conductors for lithium-ion batteries.

Tea oil camellia is an evergreen shrub that typically grows 3 to 6m tall, with oval-shaped, glossy dark green leaves that grow up to 8cm long. Clusters of many-petaled flowers are white and bloom in early spring.

Read the scientific profile for tea oil camellia.

Beauty and cosmetics

Tea seed oil is popular in soap making as it creates a very low lather soap.

Food and drink

Tea seed oil is used primarily in Southern China as a cooking oil, as well as a dressing on salads, in sauces and dips.


Tea seed oil is rich in unsaturated fats and vitamin E.

Materials and fuels

Tea seed oil is used as a lubricant for tools, as well as providing rustproofing.

  • A similar oil to tea seed oil, Tsubaki oil, is made from the seeds of Camellia japonica, and is used as a cooking oil, as well as to style hair.

A map of the world showing where tea oil camellia is native and introduced to
Native: Assam, China South-Central, China Southeast, Hainan, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam
Introduced: China North-Central

Forests, thickets, and foothills between 500 - 1300 metres.

Other plants

More from Kew

The geographical areas mentioned on this page follow the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) developed by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).