May 17, 2012

Tea Flower (Camelia Sinesis)

"Going to Fujian? Yes..make sure you photograph a tea flower there!! Your maternal grand father's family owned a tea garden...." my  86 year old mother reminded me before I left Malaysia for China.

I had the opportunity to look closely at Camelia Sinesis or ChaHua (Tea Flower) when I visited Cai Xi in Xian You. There was this little garden selling herbs and potted plants. It was a small business outlet but growing fast in the flourishing landscaping enterprise which is now taking off every where in China..

The pleasant and very surprised young lady in charge (I was speaking Pu tung hua with a strange accent) showed me around the garden and I caught sight of this lovely yellow flower - my first sight of a camelia maternal grandmother used to tell me how beautiful this flower was mother's family(Lau Kah Tii and brothers) in Fujian owned a small plot or tea garden behind their family home. Tea was their cash crop and  for generations my mother's ancestors were makers of Tea Oil or Tah Yiu. (This tea garden was later sold by an Uncle who went back to Fujian to wind up the family business. However the Lau  family home is still there)

Camellias are known as cháhuā (茶花) in Chinese, "flowering tea", an apt designation, as tsubaki (椿) in Japanese, as dongbaek-kkot (동백꽃) in Korean and as hoa trà or hoa chè in Vietnamese.(Wikipedia)

The oil extracted from the flower is used for cooking and also for medicinal purposes. A precious bottle of this expensive oil  today can last for a long time if we use it sparingly. We have used it to cure cuts and wounds. And very importantly to place a precious drop on the navel of a new born child is considered an auspicious act!! A young girl having her ears pierced would benefit from a small drop of tea oil...there will be no swelling at all..or any serious infection.
This is the tea flower photo I took for my family...on a rainy Saturday...A few droplets of rain making it  look so fresh and crisp.

My maternal grandmother used to tell us that when she was young she even took a small teaspoonful of tea oil whenever she had a the days when Breacol or Wood's were not even heard of. When Malaysia stopped political relationships with China many years ago..the tea oil supply stopped completely and we were definitely in need of alternatives (I remember Grandma used to say how effective it was for ear aches.)But it is hard to find tea oil alternative. In the same way I think it is difficult to find something to replace a traditional practice.

(picture from Wikipedia)

Tea flower will be a symbol for my maternal grandmother. I would like to wish her Happy Teacher's Day in Heaven. She taught my mother and her children...and their children so many old proverbs (all from memory) moral stories (GU YU) and even old rhymes and poems..We continue to miss her dearly in our lives...even though she has been gone for more than 30 years.

..........And I would like to give her a bouquet of Tea Flowers......

(The Lau Family -  My maternal great grandfather = Lau Kek Chung of Ming Chiang - 4 Doo Chieng San Yong..Please read the Lau family genealogy page  214 ff 2007 Edition)


Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

I feel rather ignorant, didn't know at this plant.

Here in NZ, we have camelia, but don't know what type, once I photograph their fruits wondering what they are, if they are edible. just did this for you.

Ensurai said...

Yeah...after I read your post I have been wondering too...this is definitely a tea family..and does not have a fruit..but it has a seed which when crushed will yield a good oil after processing. I think the Foochows have lost of the art of making their own tea flower oil now...

Camellia (flower) oil is commericially produced now.

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