Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reading the Tea Leaves of the Future

This is a "public domain" illustration lifted from Wikipedia via Kohler's Medizinal - Pflanzen.
(It includes an admonition to include this link, so here IT is.)
Yesterday and the day before, we featured stories of Camellia Japonicas and their local legacies -- by way of Brookhaven and Summit.

There is more to the Camellia and Mississippi story, especially when it comes to the FUTURE.

One of the reasons that camellias do so well in the Piney Woods of Mississippi is that tall pine trees provide the necessary understory shade and also render the soil around them the proper Ph (acidic) for beautiful blooms.

That got me to thinking -- I had read recently that Brookhavenite Jason McDonald is researching the possibility of starting the first Mississippi tea crop with Camellia sinensis, and I had to wonder what the difference is between the ornamental variety and the cash crop.

I am still not exactly clear why one plant is used for tea and its "cousin" for beautiful flowers, (which by the way, I've read are edible and medicinal) but it appears that the Camellia sinensis puts most of its energy production into the leaves, while the Japonicas that we Southerners all know and love direct energy into beautiful florabunda.

According to the news stories, McDonald apparently is still doing his homework and doesn't plan to plant the first plant until due diligence is done -- projecting a start on ten acres in 2014 -- as long as all systems prove to be a GO.

While I was at Oyster Bay's Planting Fields famed Camellia hothouses over the weekend, admiring the breath-taking blooms, I spied one plant called Camellia sinensis.  In my enthusiasm over the blooms on its neighbors, I failed to take a photo of that limp-leaved, budless, anemic-looking plant. Fortunately, the above illustration lifted from Wikipedia shows the vast difference between the two "cousins."

A Google search shows that other folks have wondered what I have wondered -- why ornamental Camellias leaves cannot be used for teas as well?  While it's probably a stretch and NOT something I would personally recommend, here is a link that shows the steps necessary to turn Japonica leaves into a cup of tea.

I must say, after reading all that it entails to get one lousy cup of tea, I think I'll just stick with Lipton, or, better yet, McDonald's, once and if he starts his cash crop.

For more reading on the Camellia species (along with onerous taxes) that helped to bring about the birth of a nation in Boston a couple centuries and more ago, please see this link


  1. I am excited about the possibility of an Ole Brook cup of tea....we shall see! Thanks for the celebration of all things Camellia.