Many of us know of Large Leaf varietals, Small Leaf varietals, wild varietals and such. What are the difference?
Arbor tea trees grown in the Southwest part of China and other bordering southeast Asian Countries. These are considered wild varietals or wild to domesticated varietals. The term wild does not only mean grown wildly. Wild species contain stone cells in leaf structure. Wild to domestic varietals also contain stone cells but fewer. Such genetic cell formation is for survival in wild with a hearty structure. Pu-erh teas and Feng Huang Hong Yin are both arbor large leaf wild varietals, Feng Huang Shui Xian/Dan Cong are mutated wild to domesticated varietals. These species can be found and live happily in warm and moist climates.
Shrubs with smaller tree size and leaf size. As tea trees migrate from warmer to cooler climates, the genetic changes to adopt to local condition, soil, temperature, moisture, altitude, etc. Small leaf varietals are found in mid to east and mid to north areas of China. Long Jing, Bi Lo Chun, Yan Cha, Tie Guan Yin are all small leaf varietals, also domesticated varietals. These varietals no longer contain stone cells. They can endure cooler temperature than large leaf varietals.
Too see leaf difference:
Wild Hong Yin - Wild varietal
Feng Huang Dan Cong - Wild to Domesticated varietal
Bi Lo Chun - Domesticated varietal
I'm often asked: can one tea tree be made into every kinds of tea, green, black, and such. Leaf varietal is the determine factor of its suitability for type of tea to be made. Wild, wild to domesticated varietals are too strong for green tea. Domesticated varietals are too fragile for oolong tea process. These are factors aside of how young the shoots/buds to pick. Large leaf varietals are more flavorful than domesticate varietals, the hearty nature of the leaf can also endure longer and detailed process that intended for more complicated chemistry reaction.