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Taiwanese Tea Cultivars

Although the first cultivars to be grown on the island of Taiwan were of Chinese origin, over the years the Taiwanese have developed their own cultivars. Some, like the Si Ji Chun variety, are the result of natural hybridization, while others, such as the Jin Shuan cultivar, were developed by the Taiwanese Tea Experiment Station (TTES). Although roughly a hundred cultivars have been recorded, only a few are commonly used today, and they include the Qing Xin, Siji Chun, CuiYu.Jin Shuan and Tie Guan Yin varieties.

QING XIN (ALSO CALLED "CINGSHIN" AND 'LUANZE")

The Qing Xin cultivar is recognized by and appreciated for the fragrances the leaves reveal during processing. It is the undisputed favorite of Taiwanese growers. It is most often planted at high altitude, at about 2,600 feet (800 m), ,and preferably in newly cleared soil. In order to encourage the growth of this temperamental cultivar, it is best to use rich soil that has never been used to cultivate other plants, preferably on sloping ground, where regular drainage will help the roots take hold.

SI JI CHUN

Discovered by chance in northern Taiwan and officially recognized in 1981, the Si Ji Chun variety is said to be a natural hybrid produced from two Qing Xin varieties (Qing Shin Dapan and Qing Xin). The name given to this local variety means "tea of the four springs" and refers to its exceptional productivity: five or six harvests per year, depending on the geographic region and the altitude of the plantation. With a great ability to adapt to all soil types, on the plains as well as in the mountains, and a strong resistance to parasites and disease, this variety is grown more and more widely in Taiwan. The leaves of Si Ji Chun teas are rich in aromatic substances that release an explosive floral attack when infused.

CUI YU (ALSO CALLED "TZUIYU" AND “TAI CHA NO. 13")

This cultivar is the result of a forced hybridization, recorded in 1981, between the Yingchi Hungshin and Tai Cha No. 80 varieties. Cui Yu is another local variety grown mainly on the plains and in the Nantou region. This cultivar offers high yields and gentle floral aromas, but it does not seem to enjoy the same popularity as Si Ji Chun tea among either Taiwanese growers or consumers.

JIN SHUAN (ALSO CALLED "CHINSUAN", "MILKY WULONG" AND "TAI CHA NO. 12"

This cultivar is sturdy, has plentiful buds and is adaptable. It is reputed to have an aroma reminiscent of milk, hence its nickname "Milky Wulong." Very popular in 1980s and 1990s, ,this variety seems to be less popular among growers today, as a glut on the maket caused prices to tumble.

TIE GUAN YIN

The Tie Guan Y in cultivar originated in China is now also found in Taiwan. It was planted there by the Tsang brothers around 1875. It is grown only in the north of the island, in the Mucha region.

Unfortunately, Taiwanese consumers seem to be moving away from the roasted version of Tie Guan Yin, preferring wulong teas with their delicate floral aromas.The Tie Guan Yin tea trees are now very old, and, given their declining popularity, growers will probably turn to other varieties of tea when the time comes to replace their crops of Tie Guan Yin, We may be witnessing the final years of the Mucha Tie Guan Yin variety.