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.
Tea tree oil continues to command a reasonably good demand. However, Australian farmers are facing increasing competition from the varieties flooding the markets from other sources. Last year, due to flooding, tea tree oil production was significantly reduced to 700 MT in 2020. This year, the outlook is improved with a crop production of 1,000 MT with stable prices.
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