There are more than 100 tea cultivars in Japan alone, and there are an enormous number of cultivars in the world.
However, there are only two groups of tea plants that are the origin of so many tea cultivars on the earth.
Assam group and China group
All tea cultivars including black tea, oolong tea and green tea, are roughly divided into two groups: Assam group (large leaf tea) and China group (small leaf tea).
Branched from these two groups, various kinds of tea cultivars have been produced.
By the way, almost all of Japanese tea belongs to China group.
Characteristics of Assam group
Assam group is mainly used for black tea because it is rich in tannin, has a rich aroma, and it is easily oxidized.
It is grown mainly in Sri Lanka and India because it is sensitive to cold and it likes hot and humid climate.
Assam group has no particular plucking tie and it is picked 40 ~ 50 times a year.
By the way, the best tea leaves can be picked from March to June and from September to November, which is called the quality season. In particular, tea leaves picked in March and April is called first flush, and you can enjoy a particularly rich taste and aroma.
Characteristics of China group
China group is often used for green tea because it has less tannin, has a delicate taste and aroma, and is difficult to oxidize.
It is not only resistant to cold and grown in cold and dry places, but also adaptable and grown in hot and humid places. It is grown in Japan, China and Taiwan.
From the beginning of spring to the beginning of autumn, China group is picked about four times a year. In Japan, the first tea picked that year is called “Ichibancha or Shincha (first picked tea)” and the tea picked at that time is the highest quality and is traded at a high price.
History of Assam group
Assam group was a wild tea tree found in Assam, India. However, there were various difficulties before it became widespread throughout the world.
In the 1780s, imported tea trees of China group were already planted in India.
The people in India were looking for wild tea trees in their own country, not from China, but it was hard to find.
In 1823, British botanist Robert Bruce visited in Assam, India, and discovered a tea tree he had never seen. This was the discovery of Assam group (later).
However, the Indian botanist's verdict was “This is not a tea tree, but a camellia tree.”.
It was not recognized as a tea tree at that time. Robert Bruce died in despair.
It was finally recognized as a tea tree thanks to the efforts of Robert’s younger brother Charles, who took over his will. It was the birth of Assam group.
Under the direction of Charles, the first Indian green tea made from Assam group was produced in 1838. In the following year, it was auctioned off in London at a high price.
This had raised expectations and interests in the tea business, but it had been difficult.
The land of Assam had been inhabited by dangerous wild animals and poisonous snakes, so it had been hard to develop.
Meanwhile, infectious diseases such as malaria and cholera spread and many workers died.
Tea leaves of Assam group was managed to produce, but it was too hard to secure a transportation route for exportation.
However, Assam group was a hope for the people of that time, so they had never given up.
As a result, tea production took off around 1850, 27 years after the first discovery, and the cultivation of Assam group tea trees began in Southeast Asia and Africa.
After that, black tea was born, and it has spread all over the world, mainly in the UK, until now.
History of China group
The origin of tea is China. The history of tea is started before Christ. The tea has existed since ancient times and it appears in ancient mythology.
There are various theories about the origin of tea, but the theory that the first tea tree was found in the southwest area of Yunnan is widely accepted.
Around this time, tea leaves were recognized as a medicine and began to be consumed as a luxury around 59 B.C.
Around 760, the world's oldest tea book, Chakyo (The Classic of Tea) was completed, and the way of drinking and brewing tea became close to the current style.
Chinese tea arrived in Japan in 805. The history of Japanese tea has started from here.
A long time later, around 1610, Chinese tea was imported to Europe for the first time.
Chinese tea was brought to Taiwan even later, around 1810.
Assam group was discovered more than 10 years later.
The history of Assam group is much shorter than that of the China group, and it is a very new variety that was discovered less than 200 years ago.