Obtained by steam distillation from foliage and terminal branchlets of Melaleuca alternifolia.
Tea tree grows in both New South Wales and Northern Queensland, almost entirely in modern day plantations. Some wild harvesting still occurs but this only contributes a small amount of the 650+ MT that Australia produces annually.
The industry is well regulated and as the original producer of tea tree, Australia standards are highly regarded as the best quality. The harvest period starts in May and lasts until November.
From seed to harvest usually takes around 12-15 months and trees will grow to around 2 metres high. The tree is then cut from just above the ground and the leaves are steam distilled in a process that takes around 1.5-2.0 hours per batch of around 250 kilos. Tea tree will regenerate quickly and over the next 2-3 years will yield higher levels of oil each year and establish a stronger root network ensuring it becomes more resilient to adverse weather conditions. Some more mature trees can yield higher levels of 1,8-cineole, which is undesirable so re-planting can occur every 6-7 years however the tree itself could live over 25 years.
Read more about this amazing essential oil by clicking on our Elementary Essential Oil link in the sidebar.
Currently we feel the fact that there are zero oil reserves in Australia. 2018 has opened with nil carryover stock from last year as production declined due to floods and heavy rains. The production season is due to commence in July to August 2018, assuming crops have time to recover from recent extremely hot (>43Oc) weather. Present production is affected as many farms are struggling with Pyrgo infestations, which is a tea tree’s primary pest insect.
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