Easy way to understand the scientific name of tea

[2015.01.15] Posted By

アッサム種
Tea is made of the plant called Camellia sinensis. But as you know, it is further classified into various types such as Assam, Yabukita, Tie Guan Yin, Shui Xian or China bush. Are these types considered as species or cultivar? I would like to explain the rules that classify the type of tea variety.

There is cultivar and variety under the species

In precise, tea plant is classified as follow. Regardless of oolong, green, pu-erh, black or white tea, the tea is basically made from the leaves of a plant called Camellia sinensis.

Family (科)  Theaceae
Genus(属)   Camellia
Species (種) Sinensis

Camellia sinensis means that genus is Camellia and the species is sinensis. Under the sinensis species, there are 2 types of sub-species: variety and cultivar. If you refer to the sub-species in both Chinese and Japanese, there will be some confusion. It is because of there is no distinction in both Chinese and Japanese language to differentiate between cultivar and variety. We only use one word “pin-zhong”「品種」 to describe both cultivar and variety.

Variety refers to the group that carries the homogenous genetic trait made by the natural selection of mutation

In botanical terminology, variety refers to the sub-species that a group of plants carry a single genetic trait on account of natural selection or mutation. Despite the plant is propagating by its own, every individual plant carries their own single characteristics. For example, the tea discovered in Assam area in India all have big leaves, higher poly phenol content and adapting to grow in tropical climate. If only one of the tea trees carries these characteristics, we do not call it variety, but all the trees has the same trait. In botanical terminology, the Assam tea is written as Camellia sinensis var. assamica. The variety is usually written as var. in the shorten form. The name Camellia sinensis var. assamica tells that this tea was naturally evolved and it does not involves any human’s efforts.

アッサム種

Tea garden of Assam variety

Cultivar refers to the tea made by the human’s selection

While the variety means homogenous characteristics made by the natural selection, the cultivar refers to a specific type of tea made by the cultivation by the human. For example, Tie Guan Yin cultivar, Shui Xian cultivar or Yabukita cultivar; these are a few examples of tea cultivars always been propagated by cloning. Thus, it is not called variety but cultivar. The tea tree produces seeds through sexual reproduction. That means the stamen and pistil of tea flower has to undergo crossbreeding in order to produce its seed. Usually if you plant a seed from Yabukita cultivar, the tea tree grown from this seed is not Yabukita cultivar. It will be something else as seed is made of the natural hybridization. The same theory goes with the fruit. Even if we plant the seed of Fuji apple, there will be another type of apple that grows from the seed. That is why once an ideal genetic trait is being found, the plant is propagated by the cutting (cloning). The plan that is propagated with cloning is categorized as “cultivar” in scientific term. It is written in the shorten form cv. or with single quotation as ‘Yabukita’.

After all, the scientific name of Yabukita will be as follow.

Camellia sinensis var. sinensis cv. Yabukita
Camellia sinensis var. sinensis ‘Yabukita’

What is Camellia sinensis var. sinensis?

In the above name of Yabukita, sinensis is repeated twice. You may wonder what the meaning of Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is. Camellia sinensis var. sinensis is referring to the group of tea that has originated from China. Since the first tea was found in China and these teas had small leaves, it was classified as variety. In Darjeeling, there are so-called China bush. These tea bushes were imported from China once upon a time. So the scientific name of these China bush in Darjeeling is also Camellia sinensis var. sinensis

ダージリン

Unclear scientific name of Darjeeling clonal tea

Nowadays, there are a number of tea cultivars modified from Assam variety. These cultivars are mainly used for making black tea. Since these tea plants were made from the Camellia Sinensis var. assamica by the crossbreeding, the name will be written as Camellia sinensis var. assamica cv. xxxxx. That means this is the tea cultivated by human using Camellia sinensis var. assamica. In Darjeeling, there are tea bushes called clonal. The Darjeeling clonal is referring to the tea propagated by cloning. That means it is the tea categorized as cultivar. However, most of them were crossbred between Assam Tea (Camellia sinensis var. assamica) and China tea (Camellia sinensis var. sinensis). I cannot imagine how the scientific name for these clonal teas are since it will be too long and complicated. That is why no one called Darjeeling clonal tea in the name of cultivar but just as a clonal tea.

Many prejudices with China variety

England has started the tea trading with China in 17th century. In those days, the crossbreeding has been already effectively practiced in China. For example, there are Phoenix cultivars such as Shui Xian, Ba Xian or Song Zhong which the age of tea trees are more than 500 years old. In 17th-19th century, English noticed that Chinese tea leaves were small and round shape and they concluded as “variety”. However, it is very likely that these teas they saw could have been the tea that was made by the hybridization. Considering the fact English were buying tea from Fujian province, they might saw the Shui Xian related cultivar and named them as China variety: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis. As a matter of fact, there are various sizes of tea leaves in China: small, medium and large. Somehow calling the Chinese tea as China variety: Camellia sinensis var. sinensis has a lot of prejudices.

Related Articles

How to get the latest update on HOJO Tea?

1. Follow Twitter, 2. Click "Like" on Facebook, and 3. Subscribe in newsletter. You can have the latest tea news from HOJO Tea.

Subscribe the Newsletter to enjoy the privileges
You may receive a free sample upon purchase, or you may have the priority to purchase special products. So please remember to subscribe our newsletter as well as the social network.
  •                 

HOJO TEA Online Shop NEWSlist

Taiping Houkui 2019 is now available in our store
2019 Taiping Houkui is available in our store. Taiping Houkui was listed as the Top Ten Famous Teas in China. It has been the well-known green tea of Anhui province since Qin dynasty. We have both standard and special tribute grade. The special tribute grade was grown at higher altitude and it gives longer lasting …
2019 Chinese Green Teas are available in our store
We have now received three types of 2019 Chinese green tea and one yellow tea. Thanks to less rain in this spring, the quality of these teas is excellent. Shi Feng Long Jing 獅峰龍井茶 Long Jing is the well-known Chinese green tea. It is produced in Zhejiang Province. In particular, Shi Feng Long Jing produced …

NEW ARTICLES

Taiping Houkui 2019 is now available in our store
2019 Taiping Houkui is available in our store. Taiping Houkui was listed as the Top Ten Famous Teas in China. It has been the well-known green tea of Anhui province since Qin dynasty. We have both standard and special tribute grade. The special tribute grade was grown at higher altitude and it gives longer lasting …
2019 Chinese Green Teas are available in our store
We have now received three types of 2019 Chinese green tea and one yellow tea. Thanks to less rain in this spring, the quality of these teas is excellent. Shi Feng Long Jing 獅峰龍井茶 Long Jing is the well-known Chinese green tea. It is produced in Zhejiang Province. In particular, Shi Feng Long Jing produced …
Pre-Booking of Da Xue Shan Wild Tea and White Tea Mao-Cha 2019
We open the pre-booking of Da Xue Shan Wild Raw Pu-erh Tea and Wild White tea in loose form (mao cha). This year we have very limited stock of loose tea. We will close the booking once the quantity of order reaches our quota. Tea is arriving soon in Japan. So, we should be able …
The Field Report of Yunnan Tea in 2019
We have been staying in Yunnan since 9th of April for sourcing spring tea. In previous years, we usually came here before the end of March. This year, we shifted our schedule about 10 days later since we wanted to stay here until the end of spring tea season. This past week, we were engaged …
Limited Release of Rare Single Tree Pu-erh, White and Black Tea
We have opened the sales of Single Tree Tea (Dan Zhu Tea) produced in 2018 spring. Single Tree Tea refers to the selected tea produced only from one particular tea tree. It is considered as the most exclusive quality of all. For oversea customer, please visit the following page. https://hojotea.com/en/posts-213/ So far in Yunnan, only …
New Release of Vintage Guo Gan Ripe Pu-erh Tea
We released very rare and limited ripe pu-erh tea. It is 9 years vintage ripe pu-erh tea from Guo Gan in Myanmar. It gives distinctive vintage tea flavour with a hint of dry-fruity flavour and herbal-like aroma. Tea grown in Myanmar-China border town Guo Gan is the place in Myanmar facing to Yunnan, China. This …
New Release of High Mountain Purple Black Tea 2018
We have released High Mountain Purple Black Tea 2018. This tea is one of the very popular Yunnan black tea in our line-ups. Since it is a very cold season now in Japan, this tea suite very well. I often enjoy this tea recently. Purple Tea variety gives very special flavour The high mountain purple …
Tsukigase Sencha Processed with Long Withering
We made an interesting green tea with Tsukigase’s spring tea. It is sencha, and we conducted long withering process to enhance its flavour. As a result, it gives a gentle floral scent that reminds me of Taiwan’s lightly fermented oolong tea. After producing tea in spring, in order to further enhance its flavour, we kept …
Cha Tou Brick 250g from Hou Cao Shan is available
We released Huo Cao Shan Cha Tou Brick 2017. This Cha Tou is from the same batch of tea we released earlier on pre-booking. Despite tea was produced about one year ago and not aged for a long time, it already gives very soft, mellow and rich drinking sensation with thick fruity flavour like Chinese …
The Secret of Jasmine Flower for Making Fine Jasmine Tea
Jasmine tea is made from green tea scented with the fresh jasmine flower. The quality of both green tea and jasmine flower is important. Jasmine tea consists of various cultivar and variety. The type of jasmine and the timing of plucking greatly affects the quality of jasmine tea. Heng Xian County of Guangxi is the …

PAGETOP