Here at Endeavour Tea, we are passionate about not only sourcing fine tea, but also providing education about what makes tea unique and worthy of is classification as a fine food.
Just like coffee and wine, tea is a complex agricultural product that is the lovechild of applied science and human creativity. Primarily, a tea is defined by which of the six styles it belongs to, such as black, green, white, yellow, oolong or fermented. And while all tea comes from the same plant genus: Camellia sinensis, it is the terroir that truly shapes the attributes of tea. This means the environmental conditions such as climate, soil, rainfall, altitude and the season in which the tea leaf is picked and processed.
To make matters more interesting, there are subtypes of the tea plant that have been chosen through research and natural selection for their superior phenotype, such as better resistance to frost, enhanced aroma or more vigorous leaf generation. The technical term is cultivar, or cultivated variety. Larger tea estates may have purchased, or raised, cultivar seedlings of the tea bush that are better adapted to local conditions, such as having more resistance to drought or being more hardy to frost. In Assam, for example, an estate may be focussed on planting cultivars that produce an above average number of golden tips in the springtime. In some cases, specific cultivars are chosen to create a tea with desirable attributes, such as a natural milky aroma when processed in oolong style.
The takeaway point here is that the Camellia sinensis plant, has a lot to offer and a wealth of possibilities. Clever farmers and researchers have worked for decades on distributing cultivars through assexual cloning to increase yields and to improve the tea drinking quality. When it comes to cloning, however, every plant will possess the same genetic weaknesses, so a single disease could wipe out an entire plantation if it ever took hold. Such is the risk that is involved sometimes!
While there is a wealth of information to be learned about tea, we've tried to keep it simple and focus on the regions that we use in our products and their attributes.