How to Buy the Best Loose Leaf Tea - Part 2

by Imperial Tea Garden December 19, 2017

How to Buy the Best Loose Leaf Tea

Part two of this five part series examines another crucial element in producing the best loose leaf tea.  Cultivars! They are probably the most technical item for tea enthusiast to understand but certainly one of the most important aspects in producing the best loose leaf tea for consumers.  Loose leaf teas, excluding herbal varieties, all come from the same plant species Camellia Sinensis. You may remember your 7th grade biology teacher explaining classification of plant kingdom but have long forgotten so here it is:

Tea Classifications

  • Class > Magnoliopsida

  • Subclass > Dilleniidae

  • Order > Theales

  • Family > Theaceae

  • Genus > Camellia

  • Species > Sinensis


Tea Cultivars

A cultivar is a plant selected for desirable characteristics that is maintained by propagation through human intervention.  Nothing is left to chance.  The tea master uses only tea bushes from this strain and only adds additional plants though clones or stem cuttings which can be rooted or grafted to existing bushes.  Cultivars that have been propagated by stem cuttings or grafting guarantees the offspring will retain the characteristics of the parent plant.
There are several ways to cultivate tea bushes.  Use of cuttings and grafting are common methods.  Using cuttings is the same process done when cutting and rooting a household plant. Grafting is a horticultural technique whereby tissues from one plant are inserted into those of another to join them together.  In most cases, one plant is selected for its roots and the other plant is selected for its stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits (the scion). The scion contains the desired genes to be duplicated in future production by the stock/scion plant.  There are too many tea cultivars to list but the two most common are Sinensis and Assamica.

Tea Varieties

In contrast with a cultivar, a "variety"  can be found growing and reproducing naturally in the plant kingdom. Plants grown from its seeds will often come out true to type and can equally produce excellent tea.  Varieties occur naturally as plants grow and acclimate by seeding and reproducing new varieties in the wild.  If you remember that "cultivar" stands for "cultivated variety," you will have no problem remembering the difference between the two.


Tea from Camellia Sinensis has been propagated and harvested for millennia based on unique geographical locations and weather suited for each cultivar.  There will be good crops and bad ones depending on weather patterns primarily affecting yield and to a lesser extent quality.  Cultivars are chosen specifically to survive and prosper during times of excessive rain, drought, heat and/or sunshine.

The majority of us are not experts in this area.  We trust the tea masters who have been handed down the secrets for producing the finest loose leaf teas and we are blessed to be able to enjoy them! Our advice is that once you find a particular tea that you enjoy, stick with it regardless of the type of cultivar or variety. 


Click the following links to get more information on how to buy the best teas online


Tea Buying Guide - How to Buy the Best Tea Online

Imperial Tea Garden
Imperial Tea Garden


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