Camellia oleifera - tea oil camellia

Tea seed oil / Camellia oil | Product of Vietnam

Tea seed oil or camellia oil is an edible vegetable oil which is obtained from the seeds of Camellia oleifera. Camellia oleifera, also known as tea oil camellia, is a small tree, about 5-7m high with evergreen leaves native to southern Chyna and northern Vietnam. A close relative named C. sasanqua is also used to extract camelia oil. In Vietnam, C. oleifera is known as sở, sở dầu or dầu chè.

Camellia oleifera - tea oil camellia
Camellia oleifera – tea oil camellia

Tea Oil Camellia Cultivation

The tea oil camellia is linked to the tradition of Dao, Tày and Sán Chỉ minorities in Quảng Ninh province, especially in Bình Liêu district. The plant has a variety of uses: the roots are used to treat stomach pain; roots and bark are used to treat fractures, and sprains; dried bark is used as fuel and dye. Also, indigenous families still pass on the secret of cold-pressing the seeds to extract oil, which is often used as cooking oil or medicine. The seed residue after oil extraction can still be usable, such as to clean shrimp ponds or make high-quality agricultural fertilizer.

Tea oil camellia Festival
Tea Oil Camellia Festival in Bình Liêu district, Quảng Ninh province

Previously, only poor people consumed tea seed oil, but nowadays the tea oil camellia is planted commercially for premium cooking oil. Beside Quảng Ninh province, the cultivation area of the tea oil camellia in several northern Vietnamese provinces such as Cao Bằng, Lạng Sơn, or Nghệ An also increased in recent years.

harvesting tea oil seeds in Cao Bang
Harvesting tea oil seeds in Cao Bằng province

The production of camelia oil must go through many stages. In around October, when the pods turn from green to brownish yellow, they will be harvested. Freshly-harvested fruits are incubated until cracked, then separated to remove seeds which are then get dried. Next, the seeds are put into the machine to separate the shell and the inner core. After that, the kernels are dried at 150 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

Camellia oleifera seeds
Camellia oleifera seeds

Products

Throughout Vietnam, camellia oil is not popular, partly because the Vietnamese do not use much oil in cooking. Only in recent years, the camellia oil gains some attraction from the public when people pay a little more attention to the quality of the cooking oil.

Vietnamese camelia oil
A local Vietnamese camellia oil brand

By the way, there are no large-scaled businesses in camellia oil business, so locally-produced camellia oil is limited. Most of raw camellia seeds are exported.

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