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Planting a test plot of Camellia Sinensis (Tea) to establish sustainable tea farming in California

Principal Investigator: Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague

The goal of this project is to establish sustainable methods for growing Camellia sinensis (tea) plants in the Sierra foothills region of northern California.

These plants are propagated from 50 year old mother stock growing in California, that was shown to exhibit superior growth potential in both the central valley and El Dorado County. Studies also indicated the tea was of high quality, particularly for processing as green and oolong teas. In the context of establishing a 21st Century tea farming industry in California, these plants are an important resource because they have survived for more than 50 years with little care or attention; not unlike some of California’s most prized old zinfandel vines.

The 1962-80 UC study demonstrated that clones could be successfully propagated providing enough plants to partner with local farmers.

We propose to propagate these tea cultivars and establish a test plot in an effort to identify superior sensory and health attributes relevant to the California terroir.

The 1962-80 study concluded that these varieties could produce up to 5 tons of wet leaf tea per acre or 1 ton of processed (dried) tea per acre. With the current wholesale price of tea ranging from $50-1000/lb, the financial incentives for developing high value specialty tea crops for small business farmers in California are high.