Blog 128: Tea Plant Crossbreeding/Grafting: How We Create New Cultivars

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Tea as a beverage is incredible. The flavors and the aromas of an authentic tea product does not have any “ingredients”. All those charming floral and fruity tastes and aromas come naturally from tea leaves, and nothing else is involved.


Some tea drinkers might ask: if there’re no ingredients or additives, how come teas have some many different tastes?


The answer to this question is simple: despite all tea leaves come from “tea plants”, not all “tea plants” are the same. Specifically, There are hundreds of tea plant cultivars, and they all have different flavor and fragrance profiles. The diversity of tea plant cultivars is the reason why we have so many different teas.



But wait, the story of tea plant diversity does not end here. What if we “marry” different tea plants together? Can we produce some new “cultivars”?


The answer is YES. In fact, many of our favorite Wuyi oolongs (Yancha) are the direct decedents of two famous tea plants: Tie Guan Yin (铁观音) and Huang Dan (黄旦, also called Huang Jin Gui/黄金桂).


The marriage of “Tie Guan Yin” and “Huang Dan” is a complex and time-consuming scientific achievement. To create a new tea cultivar, we cannot simply mix tea leaves from two plants. In practice, we use crossbreeding and grafting to hybrid two plants together. Therefore, we can get the best of two tea plants.



Not all vegetative crossbreeding can produce fruitful results. From all the offsprings, we still need to develop it for a couple more generations to stabilize the characters of a new cultivar. It commonly costs us years, or even decades to create a new cultivar.


But the result definitely worths all these troubles. The union of Tie Guan Yin and Huang Dan has delivered quite a few precious decedents. Among all, there are 4 tea products become well-known by the tea community:


1. Huang Guan Yin/黄观音

2. Golden Peony/金牡丹/Jin Mu Dan

3. Golden Guan Yin/金观音

4. Purple Rose/紫玫瑰/Zi Mei Gui


The 4 siblings perfectly inherited Tie Guan Yin’s tastes and Huang Dan’s aromas. Like their parents, they all have an early harvest and tea-making. Our “Huang Guan Yin” and “Golden Peony” are among the first tea products that go on the market.



Currently, our “Huang Guan Yin” and “Golden Peony” are in the roasting process. As a matter of fact, nearly all tea makers in Wuyi mountains are processing “Huang Guan Yin” and “Golden Peony” now.


This is a beautiful time of the year. Everywhere you walk, the strong aroma of Huang Guan Yin fills the air. This wonderful aroma is also roasted into tea leaves.


When we infuse tea leaves with hot water, the fragrance substances are reactivated. The smell of Huang Dan and the taste of Tie Guan Yin are both presented. Through crossbreeding and grafting, we get the best of two teas in one cultivar.



If you’re interested in experiencing our Wuyi oolong (Yancha) Huang Guan Yin and Golden Peony, we’re expecting an EARLY JULY on sale day for both teas.


We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. As always, if you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment, tweet us @valleybrooktea or email the author directly at zhang@valleybrooktea.com. Please also follow us on Instagram @valleybrooktea and join our mail list to get our daily tea updates and our latest promotions!


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