Obtained by steam distillation from foliage and terminal branchlets of Melaleuca alternifolia.
Tea tree grows naturally in South Africa but to date there are little in the way of commercial plantations. Much of the countries output is wild harvested and can be certified as organic. Some young plantations have started but output is relatively small on a global scale.
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.
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The season for tea tree oil in South Africa runs from April to October; fresh estimates start filtering in by the end of February. Production has started but quantities are limited at this stage. In the case of organic tea tree oil, the demand is healthy, and it is expected to remain so for 2018. The crop in 2017 was sold immediately after production.
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