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.
Erratic weather patterns during latter half of 2018 and early 2019 had already hinted at the possible trend of things to come. A period of aridity heightened by prolonged drought was the first of a series of setbacks to plague tea tree farmers. Copious rainfall in the months of March and April 2019 brought some respite and a ray of hope. Market sentiments improved considerably and predictions pointed towards a healthy figure of 800 MT. However, June came with an extreme frost that ruined much of the crop in New South Wales. Several producers, who had delayed the harvest in order to capture the late growth, were faced with largescale crop damage. Consequently, market sentiments are rather subdued with crop predictions pegging the figure at 648 MT, a substantial plunge of 360 MT or 35.71%. Farmers have commenced activities to complete the interrupted harvest; and going by early reports a reduced crop is certain. Reports coming in from the North Queensland growing region indicate no change in yields. In a strong market with overall production below the heavy global demand, the industry is gearing up for an anticipated price rise.
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