The tea plant, whose botanical name is Camellia sinensis sinensis, if allowed to grow wild will exceed 25 feet in height and flower like any other type of perennial semi-deciduous tree. In order to produce tea on a commercial level, saplings are planted close to each other and repeatedly pruned or clipped to stimulate leaf-growth sideways and to avoid blossoming. Saplings usually will reach picking maturity in five to seven years and can be cultivated for more than 100 years.
The height of tea bushes is rarely allowed to exceed 36 inches in height and number between 1,500 to 5,500 per acre. An acre of tea can yield 800 to 3,600 pounds of made tea each year. To make a pound of tea requires 4.5 pounds of fresh picked tea.
There are two ways of planting tea; growing directly from seeds or as is more common, the use of cuttings from a mother bush. The latter method is called vegetative propagation or clonal planting. Use of clonal planting is preferred because it ensures uniform bushes of a well-tested variety by eliminating the variations caused by cross-pollination in seeds. Some growing areas requiring a more hearty bush must use seedlings because of their long, sturdy tap root.
Tea grows at altitudes ranging from sea level to 7,000 feet and on latitudes as far north as Turkey and Georgia in the mid-east to Argentina in South America. Camellia sinensis prefers a warm, humid climate, plenty of well-distributed rainfall and long sunlit days, so a majority of the world's most famous growing regions tend to be located closer to the equator. The tea bush is extremely flexible in regards to soil conditions, growing in anything from sandy loam to heavy clay, as long as it is well drained.