Camellia sasanqua, Camellia thea.
Camellia sasanqua Thunb. Ternstroemiaceae. Tea-Oil Plant.
Japan and China. This plant was introduced from China to England in 1811. It yields a nut from which an oil is expressed in China, equal, it is said, to olive oil. In Japan the dried leaves are mixed with tea to give it a grateful odor.
Camellia thea Link. Tea.
China. This is the species to which the cultivated varieties of tea are all referred. In its various forms it is now found in China and Japan, in the mountains that separate China from the Burmese territories, especially in upper Assam, in Nepal, in the islands of Bourbon, Java, St. Helena and Madeira, in Brazil and experimentally in the United States. The first mention of tea seems to have been by Giovanni Pietro Maffei in his Historiae Indicae, 1589, from which it appears that it was then called by the Chinese chia. Giovanni Botero in his Delia Cause della grandezza...delta citta, 1589, says the Chinese have an herb from which they extract a delicate juice, which they use instead of wine. In 1615, an Englishman in Japan, in the employment of the East India Company, sent to a brother official at Macao for a "pot of the best chaw," and this is supposed to be the earliest known mention by an Englishman. Adam Olearius describes the use of tea in Persia in 1633, and says—his book being published in 164 —"this herb is now so well known in most parts of Europe, where many persons of quality use it with good success." In 1638, Mandelslo visited Japan and about this time wrote of the tsia or tea of Japan.
Prior to 1657, tea was occasionally sold in England at prices ranging from $30 to $50 a pound. In 1661, Mr. Pepys, secretary of the British Admiralty, speaks of "tea (a China drink) of which I had never drank before," and in 1664, the Dutch India Company presented two pounds and two ounces to the King of England as a rare and valuable offering and in 1667 this company imported 100 pounds. In 1725, there were imported into England 370,323 pounds; in 1775, the quantity had increased to 5,648,188 pounds. In 1863, upwards of 136,000,000 pounds were imported of which 85,206,779 pounds were entered for home consumption. In 1863, the United States received 29,761,037 pounds and 72,077,951 pounds in 1880.
In 1810, the first tea plants were carried to Rio Janeiro, together with several hundred Chinese experienced in its culture. The government trials do not seem to have resulted favorably but later, the business being taken up by individuals, its culture seems to be meeting with success and the tea of Brazil, called by its Chinese name of cha, enters quite largely into domestic consumption. In 1848, Junius Smith, of South Carolina, imported a number of shrubs and planted them at Greenville. At about the same time some 32,000 plants were imported from China and distributed through the agency of the Patent Office. In 1878, the Department of Agriculture distributed 69,000 plants. In Louisiana, in 1870, a plantation of tea shrubs, three to four hundred in number, is said to have existed.
Sturtevant's Edible Plants of the World, 1919, was edited by U. P. Hedrick.