Tea only has two main varieties, but surprisingly, there are thousands of different and unique cultivars. The strain is taken from the Camellia sinensis CHINA GREEN TEA plant and bred and cultivated with specific practices to get the desired characteristics in a plant.
Think of a plant, it perhaps has larger leaves or thick stems. Perhaps leaves bunch closer together. These all constitute traits of the plant as briefed on earlier with respect to Norman Borlaug’s experiments. The cultivation process finalizes the desired traits. Some tea plants once finalized end up with resistance to frost or pests. Others may be taller or produce thicker stems. Also, in these plants, contain varying flavor profiles, different aromas with some being especially unique!
How are cultivars produced in the world of tea? There are a few methods of producing a “new” cultivar: Many existing cultivars have been produced by mixing existing “native” cultivars. As a side note, camellia sinensis is not native to Japan and when we speak of “native” cultivars, we are discussing cultivars created in Japan from a non-native plant. When it comes to the mixing of cultivars, it is possible to trace the origin of many cultivars. Another method of establishing new cultivars is through natural processes within a given plant. Sometimes, oddly enough, plants grow a new branch that is genetically different than the rest of the plant. In the research world, researchers look at the given qualities of a tea plant and select desired characteristics. The genes of the “father” and “mother” plants are blended to create a new cultivar.
It is important to remember that a cultivar does not always or necessarily determine the type of tea (black, white, oolong, green for example). Generally speaking, the processing method after plucking the leaves from the plant determines the type of tea. Another way of thinking about this is that the cultivar is the characteristics of the plant and often the type of tea is how you process the leaves after harvest.
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