Cultivar, Terroir, and the Alchemy of Tea

posted in: #tea | 0

 

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“Which cultivar is this?” is a question I often ask when freshly picked leaves come in from the gardens. The idea of looking at cultivars as a determining factor for flavor profiles in tea of any color is something that came up again on a visit to one of Taipei’s oldest family-run tea sellers. While I was speaking with a family member who is in line to helm the business himself, he’d identify a Wulong, or Green tea I liked and ask, “Do you know which cultivar it’s made from?”.

While I was working on the Yu family tea farm, there were many opportunities to compare a JinXuan BaoZhong to a QingXin BaoZhong before, during, and after the leaves had been processed into a finished tea. In this case, both are Small Leaf cultivars expressed as BaoZhong WuLong. Also, both were from the same spring season and picked on the same day. The last part is important to note, as day-to-day weather affects a tea’s character. So two batches of leaves from a given season made into two batches of the same kind of tea often have markedly different qualities. However…

It’s important to note the influence of terroir on leaves picked from neighboring tea fields. In this case, with QingXin leaves and JinXuan leaves, the first was made into a BaoZhong, the second made into a Green tea. They have similar amounts of amino acids and therefore sweetness in the finished tea. It’s interesting to find a similar amount of the smooth buttery flavor and fragrance you might expect in the JinXuan Green, also evident in the floral QingXin BaoZhong.

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photo on the left)  ZiYe Cultivar bushes in a permaculture garden.

photo, on the right) QingXin and JinXuan Cultivar, respectively.

If tea is shared in a relaxed atmosphere the medicinal effects are heightened by way of it. Especially when tea is made with heart, without added pesticides or chemical fertilizers, it becomes an elixir that, when imbibed in a peaceful setting, more often than not, only has physiological and psychological upsides. Ultimately, this kind of tea, clean tea, made with great care, helps socialize us, and in some cases re-socialize us. Tea is other than something which is to be deconstructed as a mere product with hints of this or that.

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