What is Tea?

Confused by cultivars and tea types? Get the lowdown on the world's most loved leaf.


Tea comes from the Camellia plant. About 99.9% of tea comes from Camellia Sinensis and the rest comes from obscure Camellia species such as Camellia Taliensis.

So in taxonomic terms, practically all tea is made from:



Below SPECIES is VARIETY. For tea there are 2 original VARIETIES - Sinensis (smaller leaves) and Assamica (larger leaves). Another variety called Cambodia is thought to be a hybrid of Sinensis and Assamica but it is rarely used to make high quality tea.

Below VARIETIES is SUBVARIETIES or CULTIVARS. The difference is simply that if a SUBVARIETY is cultivated by propagation (taking cuttings of the plants to ensure an identical genetic make-ip) then we tend to call it a CULTIVAR (CULTivated subVARieties).

When you are  investigating a tea the least that you should know is if it is a Sinensis or Assamica variety but at Mei Leaf we strive to give you the subvariety or cultivar too. This has a huge influence on the flavour and qualities of the tea.

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