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Egret: tea cultivar overview

Just like with apples, tomatoes and grapes, tea has many breeds or cultivars. Each cultivar is better suitable for different climates, has different resistance to disease and bugs, and produces teas of different flavors and textures.

TTES # 17, also known as Egret (白鷺; báilù), is an older tea cultivar developed in Taiwan that has received its name in 1972. This small leaf tea variety has great resistance to diseases, insects, and drought. Despite these advantages, many farmers abandoned this cultivar, because it produced a fishy smell after being oxidized. The most suitable tea to make from this cultivar was white tea (shoumei) and green tea. However, some farmers have found ways to turn the fishy smell into sweet fragrance.

The good pest and drought resistance meant that this cultivar is suitable for hotter parts of Taiwan, which are also the parts where the small green leafhopper is most abundant. These little critters love to graze the tea bushes, turning their leaves into prime material for honey flavor tea. After some experiments, tea farmers began using TTES # 17 to produce White-Tip Oolong and Honey Flavor teas. One of our most popular teas, Sweet Fennec GABA oolong, is also made from the Egret cultivar, utilizing the bug-bitten leaves that stem from tea gardens that use natural farming methods.

The Bai Lu is but one of several examples of older Taiwanese cultivars that return from obscurity thanks to technological innovation and the desire of the tea farmers to preserve traditional cultivars. This balance between tradition and innovation lies at the core of Taiwan's tea culture and industry.


Source: Taiwan Tea and Beverage Research Station


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