April 15, 2008

Camellia sinensis is a tree


Camellia sinensis pruned to grow as a shrub.
Source: UCLA Economic Botany

The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a small shrub or tree. I always considered the plant a shrub, but it is featured in a fabulously photographed tree book, Trees of the World. The accompanying text includes an excerpt from a letter between friends in AD 730.
I am sending you some leaves of tea that come from a tree beloging to the Monastery of Ou I Mountain. Take a blue urn of Ni Hung and fill it with water which has been melted from snow gathered at sunrise upon the western slops of SouChan Mountain. Place the urn over a fire of maple twigs that have just been collected from among very old moss and leave it there until the water begins to laugh. Then pour it into a cup of Huen Tscha in which you have placed some leaves of this tea. Cover the cup with a bit of white silk woven at Houa Chan and wait until your room is filled with a perfume like the garden of Fouen Lo. Lift the cup to your lips, then close your eyes. You will be in Paradise.
"Lift the cup to your lips, inhale the scent of the steeping leaves, then close your eyes."

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