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.
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The Australian tea tree industry has been plagued by a plethora of problems throughout the year. Radical weather fluctuations and periodic droughts have thrown forecasts off track. Erratic weather patterns have led to some of the most ruthless bushfires recorded in modern history, leaving extensive damage in their wake. Vast stretches of arable land, livestock, wildlife, and homes were razed to the ground. Subsequently, incessant squalls in February propelled extensive flooding, leading to abject damage in some unfortunate farms. It was contained in most of the others. Following this, the trees were infested by a plague of pyrgo beetle. Though tea tree is rather resilient and was spared significant damage during the bushfires, it was a stressful 2019, which gave way to an unusual 2020. Expectations of a strong crop were washed away; production levels plummeted by a marked 40% compared to the previous year.
The new year had raised hopes for better performance. Keen appraisals of crop prediction for this year pegs the figure close to 750 MT, with a leeway of around 50 MT more or less. Golden Grove Naturals is well into the 2020 production season having commenced harvest early this year to meet customer demand and avoid early winter frosts. The industry was just getting back on its feet when the pandemic broke out. Despite a surge in demand during the COVID-19 outbreak, this year’s crop estimate hovers at par with the average for the past four years. In anticipation of inflated demand in the COVID-19 crisis, several farms have pre-booked orders with their clients in recent weeks. However, stocks are limited, since there are zero carryover stocks that can be utilised to support supply for this heightened demand.
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