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Fujian Tea Cultivars

Wan Ling in Fujian

Fujian Province is home to a rich diversity of tea cultivars. In fact, it is impossible to find an area that has developed a more astounding array of white, wulong, and black teas.

What is a cultivar?

To understand the value and richness of this tea diversity, an understanding of the term "cultivar" is helpful. Sometimes the word "varietal" is used in place of cultivar. As the term varietal is used in the wine tradition, a varietal refers to the finished product (e.g. wine) that is produced from one main variety/cultivar, but may be blended with others. To a degree, this may hold true for some teas, as a farmer or processor may combine very similar cultivars in the creation of finished tea leaf.

Tea leaf

"Cultivar" is short for cultivated variety. As the term is used to describe teas, this can mean a variety of tea developed by humans who selectively bred different tea plants. It can also refer to varieties that developed in nature. Geographic isolation and other factors can contribute to the natural occurrence of distinct tea varieties.

Cultivars can be developed and grown for many reasons. Some produce more leaf. Others begin to sprout (i.e. "flush") earlier or later in the season. Some are more resilient to disease or climatic fluctuations.

One of the more noticeable reasons to understand cultivars is the different flavors, aromas, and textures they produce. When it comes to choosing more enjoyable teas, knowing cultivar can help.

The major tea cultivars in Fujian Province are often connected to a few key locations:

Fuding and Zhenghe

Fuding and Zhenghe are both known for their white teas, and the cultivars developed there. Of the two, it is believed that the Zhenghe Da Bai cultivar was derived from the older Fuding Da Bai cultivar.

The Da Bai tea plant is known for producing large buds with silvery-white hairlike filaments. It is the shape and color of these buds that give Silver Needle teas their name. The same fuzzy, silver buds can be found in Bai Mu Dan. The higher the quality of Bai Mu Dan, the more silver buds can be found still attached to the leaf pairs beneath the bud.

WuYi Mountains

WuYi Mountains

Several wulong cultivars have developed in the WuYi mountain area of Fujian. The terrain there created several isolated pockets where new tea varieties were established. Of the many varieties grown in WuYi, two make up a significant percentage of teas grown in the area - rou gui and shui xian.

The rou gui cultivar has been around for centuries, but has increased in popularity since winning several awards in the 1980s. It is known for its rich aromas, and its ability to be steeped multiple times. Our rou gui tea grows in the "zheng yan", or official/genuine cliff areas of the WuYi mountains.

Other, more recent wulong cultivars have also been developed. Wan Ling Tea House's Jin Yao Shi, or Golden Key is known to have a complexity of initial sweetness, balanced astringency, and silky finish. Jin Yao Shi will no doubt take its place among the exceptional WuYi cultivars.

The WuYi mountains also produce a famous black tea. Lapsang Souchong, is sometimes known as Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong. The cultivar and methods used for producing Lapsang Souchong developed in Tong Mu, a small village in the WuYi mountains. The original cultivar used for lapsang souchong is quite similar genetically similar to other WuYi rock tea cultivars. In fact, these other Wuyi cultivars have been harvested in some times and places to create 'fake' lapsang souchong. The combination of authentic cultivar and distinct processing methods of authentic lapsang souchong create a unique tea found nowhere else.

Rou Gui

Jin Yao Shi

Lapsang Souchong


By far, TieGuanYin is the most famous Fujian oolong cultivar. While other retailers may offer other cultivars processed like TieGuanYin and sold under that name, Wan Ling Tea House TieGuanYin comes from the TieGuanYin cultivar. Authentic TieGuanYin cultivars result in authentic TieGuanYin taste and character. Compromising on cultivar can mean drinking TieGuanYin with poorer aroma and inferior character.

Anxi tea plantation

For further exploration:

Oolong Tea Types

China Tea Facts: Fujian

Introduction to Tea Varietals

Back To Tea Articles

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