Tea blogger in Seattle, WA. Partner at Phoenix Tea in Burien, WA.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Varietal or Cultivar?
Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending Yoon Hee Kim's presentation "Tea 101: From Garden to Cup" at the Northwest Tea Festival. I was heartened to learn that all of the basic tea information I have been imparting to my clients is congruent with Yoon Hee's. But there was one minor difference... for the past five years I have always used the word "varietal" when describing the many specific types of tea plants grown to produce various teas. Tie Guanyin (鐵觀音), Shui Xian (水仙), Qing Xin (青心), Jin Xuan (金萱), and Fo Shou (佛手) are just a few examples of the numerous types that currently exist. In her presentation, Yoon Hee chose the words "hybrids" and "cultivars" to describe these subcategories of Camellia sinensis*. After doing some botanical research, I now feel like these words are more accurate, so I plan to switch from varietal to cultivar when talking about these distinct tea types.
* Camellia sinensis is the species name for the tea plant. This species appears to have two major varieties Camellia sinensis var. sinensis and Camellia sinensis var. assamica.