Tea. Tea (Camellia spp.) is an important beverage and the world drinks more of it than any other beverage. It is made from the tender or young leaves and unopened buds of the evergreen tea-plant, popular as a ‘healthful herb’. The tea plant is in the polymorphic species Camellia sinensis Kuntz, but recent findings show that this plant of commerce is derived from more than one species. Two distinct varieties of tea-plant are g
enerally recognised, the small-leaved China (sinensis) and the large-leaved Assam (assamica) which have been raised to a specific rank by a well-known tea botanist. Careful field observations, however, reveal that more than one or two species are involved in the evolution of the present-day tea-plant of commerce. Considerable interspecific hybridization has taken place in nature. Thus, the taxonomy of the tea-complex is confounded.
The important tree growing countries are India, Sri Lanka and East Africa; Japan and Indonesia also produce sizeable quanties of tea. It is also grown in Bangladesh, China, Georgia, Argentina and some other countries. In India, the crop is grown in Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, and to some extent in Tripura and Himachal Pradesh. The total area under tea in our country is about 3,58,000 hectares and over 468 million kilograms of product is obtained anually. Over one million workers are employed by the tea industries.
Yeilds have steadily increased during two decades. Tremendous progress has been made on the selection of clones and those with high yeilds and improved quality have been released to the industry. The tea planters are encouraged to uproot poor section of their plantation and replant them with improved planting material.
CLIMATE. Tea is grown on plantation scale in many areas of the world in warm and moist climate. These range from Georgia (USSR) to Corrientes (Argentina). It is grown from sea level to about 2460 m. A well distributed rainfall is essential for its cultivation. The rainfall varies from 125 cm to 750 cm in the tea-growing regions in this country.
SOIL. tea is planted on soils of widely different geological origin and of almost all physical types. a well drained, deep and friable loam or forest land rich in organic matter is ideal. are acidic (pH 4 to 6), low in calcium and generally rich in iron and manganese.
CULTIVATION. Tea is propogated from seed, but high yielding clonal material has also become popular. The plants are initially raised in nurseries to produce healthy plants. 1 to 1 and 1/2 year old nursery seedlings are used for planting in the field. The vegetative propogation of selected tea-plant cuttings, each with a leaf and an internode has been standardized and progressive planters now raise colonial nurseries on a large scale.