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Old 24-11-2017, 08:45 PM posted to
Lewis Perin Lewis Perin is offline
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Default 3000 types of tea?

(Scott Dorsey) writes:

much thanks for this discussion. came across as part of research i'm
doing on tea and trying to find some validity to the 3,000 varieties
statement - still as vague in 2017 as it was in 2003

What is a "variety?"

You have individual plant varieties (and the plants are clones these days
so just about any genetic variation can be considered a different variety.
You have terroir, encompassing soil and climate. And you have processing.

In Ceylon most of the tea plants are very closely related genetically and
you would not be stretching TOO far to call them all the same variety of
plant. But the tea grown in kandy and the tea grown at higher altitudes
in nuwara eliya are totally different, due to the different terroir.

Traditionally teas grown in Assam have been fully withered and processed
into orthodox black teas.

....and CTC black teas.

A number of growers are trying to use different processing (more
typical of Chinese growers) to make green teas. The end result is very
strange to my mouth, plants bred to make tea for processing as black
tea but processed into a green tea.

Likewise the Japanese have recently been taking tea gardens planted with
traditional plant varieties intended to make green teas, and processing them
to make small quantities of black tea. The end result is totally different
than traditional black teas from China or India, totally different than
green teas from Japan. They are their own thing.

So... maybe there are 3,000 varieties of plant. I don't know if that's true
but it could be possible.

Maybe there are 3,000 traditional varieties of processed tea. I don't know
if that's true either, but traditionally each variety of plant has been bred
for specific kinds of processing so there are likely few more traditional
varieties of tea than of plant.

Maybe there are 3,000 modern varieties of processed tea. Considering that
people are now mixing different processing types on the same source plants,
that dramatically extends the number of possible varieties.

So what is a variety? I can pick three darjeelings and they are all
different. One's a first flush that is nearly green, another is a second
flush that is nearly green, and the third is a second flush that has been
more darkly processed. They all come off the same tea plants. Are they
different varieties? They all taste very different from one another.

And different plucking standards applied to the same plants can yield
very different teas, e.g. Silver Needle, White Peony, etc. And there
are many, many different manufacturing styles within a single genre like
green tea. And how many traditional genres are there? Maybe six, maybe
more, depending on how you think of it.

It's not simple and that's another reason to like tea.


Lew Perin /