Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tea Seed

Tea seeds from our partner dancong tea farm. Picture taken in August, 2011

Tea seeds from the tea oil tree (camellia oleifera)
 Tea plants, just like other plants, bloom and produce seeds. Most people I know who have been drinking tea for a long time has not seen a tea seed before. So I want to write a post to briefly touch on tea seeds.

There are two type of tea seeds, those that grow on tea bushes (camellia sinensis) from which we pick our tealeaves and those that grow on tea oil trees (camellia oleifera) grown just for the seeds to press for oil. Both types of tea seeds can be used for pressing oil. However, the seeds from the tea oil trees produces much more oil than those from the camellia sinensis. According to research, tea oil is just as good as olive oil in terms for health benefits to us.

The leftover from the oil press is still useful. They are gathered, processed, and pressed into cakes that look like puerh bing (picture below). They are called (茶籽餅, in mandarin chá zí bǐng, tea seed cake). The Teochewese people call them 茶籽圈, te5 ji2 ko1, meaning tea seed rounds. The tea seed rounds have quite a few applications. The two applications I remember from childhood are as fertilizer and as hair soap. I remember my grandma always bought tea seed rounds to wash her hair with. Back then they were easily found in any street markets. Ladies from my grandma's generation wouldn't use shampoo to wash their hair because they said shampoo made their hair too dry. (Back then there were no hair conditioner and the shampoo I believe was just some regular liquid soap). My grandma always said tea seed soap was the best for washing hair because they made her hair soft and silky smooth.

A typical tea seed round.

Tea seed oil

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