May 10, 2016

Tea Cultivars - 12 Chinese Tea Cultivars

Image: Sencha, two types

This post is an optional homework assignment for a tea education course. During an early class we discussed tea cultivation and the Japanese green tea cultivar 'Yabukita' was the case study. A cultivar is a cultivated variety that must be propagated vegetatively typically through cuttings whereas as a plant variety occurs naturally and is propagated through seeds. Learn more about cultivar versus variety. Yabukita accounts for 85% of green tea production in Japan. It is is one of more than 52 registered cultivars, both green and black, in Japan. Ricardo at My Japanese Green Tea has a list of the Japanese tea cultivars registered between 1953 and 2012.

Image: Dragon Well

I found the discussion of cultivars fascinating so decided to complete the optional assignment. Although the assignment was to chart 12 Chinese green tea cultivars I had been considering researching Taiwanese oolongs because I have been drinking a lot of these teas this year. However, in looking for the possible cultivar used to produce the Alishan oolong offered by Adagio Teas, I came across a list of Taiwanese oolong and black cultivars created by James at TeaDB. You can read my review of the Alishan oolong here.

Image: Silver Needle

Without further ado, here is my chart of 12 Chinese Tea Cultivars with preference given to green teas. I have drunk every tea on this list; most I have reviewed.

Tea Name Translated Name Type of Tea Cultivar(s) Region (Province)
1 Longjing Dragon Well Green Longjing #43;
Longjing Jiu Keng
Zhejiang
2 Pi Lo Chun/ Bi Luo (or Lu) Chun Spring Green Snail Green - Jiangsu
3 Lu Shan Yun Wu - Green Longjing #43 Jiangxi, Anhui and Zhejiang
4 Huang Shan Mao Feng - Green Mao Feng Anhui
5 Bai Hao Yin Zhen Silver Needle White Da Bai (Fuding; Zhen He) Fujian
6 Bai Mu Dan White Peony White Fuding Da Bai Fujian
7 Tie Guan Yin Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong Tieguanyin Fujian
8 Da Hong Pao Big Red Robe Oolong Beidou No. 1 (is it a cultivar, or a sub-varietal of Shui Xian/ Shui Hsien?) Fujian (Wuyi Mountains)
9 Jin Jun Mei Golden Eyebrow Black (Lapsang Souchong) Jin Jun Mei (buds only); Fu Yun Liu Hao Fujian (Wuyi Mountains)
10 Keemun - Black Keemun Mao Feng (fine pluck); Keemun Hao Ya (A, B) Anhui
11 Bai Lin Congfu - Black Fuding Da Bai; Da Hao Fujian
12 - Golden Monkey Black Fuding (imperial pluck) Fujian; Yunnan

Image: Golden Monkey

One of the things that struck me on reviewing the chart was that although the birthplace of tea is Yunnan Province, many of the teas I list here are from Fujian Province. This was accidental; I did not purposefully select teas from Fujian. The authors of Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties point out that Fujian "is renowned for the variety of teas it produces." Another curious feature is the lack of translated names for all the teas. I did not find a central source for tea cultivar information. Not all tea vendors list cultivar names. Luckily, of the teas presented in the chart, only one is missing a cultivar name, the Bi Luo Chun. It's possible that this tea does not have a cultivar, or that the cultivar used is not officially recorded, or that there is some disagreement about whether the tea is produced from a sub-varietal or a cultivar as in the case of Da Hong Pao. In some cases, such as Longing and Tieguanyin, the tea name and cultivar name are the same.

Image: Huang Shan Mao Feng

Please review the chart. Let me about errors. Help me to fill in the missing information. Thank you!

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