21. Camellia sinensis (Linnaeus) Kuntze, Trudy Imp. S.-Peterburgsk. Bot. Sada. 10: 195. 1887.
Shrubs or trees, 1-5(-9) m tall. Young branches grayish yellow, glabrous; current year branchlets purplish red, white pubescent; terminal buds silvery gray sericeous. Petiole 4-7 mm, pubescent, glabrescent; leaf blade elliptic, oblong-elliptic, or oblong, 5-14 × 2-7.5 cm, leathery, abaxially pale green and glabrous or pubescent, adaxially dark green, shiny, and glabrous, midvein ± raised on both surfaces, secondary veins 7-9 on each side of midvein and ± raised on both surfaces, reticulate veins visible on both surfaces, base cuneate to broadly cuneate, margin serrate to serrulate, apex bluntly acute to acuminate and with an obtuse tip. Flowers axillary, solitary or to 3 in a cluster, 2.5-3.5 cm in diam. Pedicel 5-10 mm, recurved, pubescent or glabrous, thickened toward apex; bracteoles 2, caducous, ovate, ca. 2 mm. Sepals 5, persistent, broadly ovate to suborbicular, 3-5 mm, outside glabrous or white pubescent, inside white sericeous, margin ciliolate. Petals 6-8, white; outer 1-3 petals sepaloid; inner petals obovate to broadly obovate, 1.5-2 × 1.2-2 cm, basally connate, apex rounded. Stamens numerous, 0.8-1.3 cm, glabrous; outer filament whorl basally connate for ca. 2 mm. Ovary globose, densely white pubescent, tomentose, or subglabrous, 3-loculed; style ca. 1 cm, glabrous or base pubescent, apically 3-lobed. Capsule oblate, 2-coccal, or rarely globose, 1-1.5 × 1.5-3 cm, 1- or 2-loculed with 1 seed per locule; pericarp ca. l mm thick. Seeds brown subglobose, 1-1.4 cm in diam. Fl. Oct-Feb, fr. Aug-Oct.
Evergreen broad-leaved forests, thickets; 100-2200 m. Anhui, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hainan, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, S Shaanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, SE Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang [NE India, S Japan, S Korea, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam].
Tea is made from the vegetative buds and young leaves of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and C. sinensis var. assamica. There is a long history of the use and cultivation of tea in China. Tea is usually distinguished by the Chinese people as small leaf tea (var. sinensis) with a more northern distribution and large leaf tea (var. assamica) with a more southern distribution. However, the other varieties of C. sinensis and even some other species of Camellia are locally used as tea. The distinction between green tea and black tea concerns the processing of the leaves whether they are just wilted before drying (green tea) or wilted and then fermented before drying (black tea).
Because of extensive cultivation, it is often difficult to know for certain whether specific collections of var. sinensis and var. assamica are wild, cultivated, or escaped. For this reason, the actual wild distribution of these two varieties is uncertain.