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Camellia taliensis (大理茶)

Yunnan Sourcing has a new silver bud pu'er listed from Jinggu. Of note is that it is not made from the usual pu'er varietal, Camellia sinensis var. assamica (arguably the same as var. daye), or even from the hairy white tea species, Camellia ptilophylla. Instead, it's made with another local big leaf species called Camellia taliensis (presumably meaning "tea plant of Dali" based on its Chinese name, 大理茶).

I did some searching around, and taliensis belongs in the camellia group thea, which includes those that are used for tea production, although one of them, irrawadensis, does not produce caffeine. It is considered a wild tea plant that, at least in 2002, was threatened by habitat destruction.

Drinking a mengsa tea whose leaves look very similar to those pictured above, dark purpley green with thin yellow stalks, I believed that Yunnan Sourcing's new product had indirectly lead to my finding what all these strange looking pu'er cakes had been using as material: not our usual friend Camellia sinensis var. assamica, but a different species altogether, Camellia taliensis.

However, reading further along in the summary of the article by Long, Li, Ouyang, et al., I found this table of Yunannese wild tea plants, all of whose leaves are supposedly suitable for tea making:

C. crassicolumna

var. crassicolumna China: SE Yunnan 1300–2300, evergreen broadleaf forest

var. multiplex China: SE Yunnan 1900–2210, evergreen broadleaf forest

var. shangbaensis China: S Yunnan 2450, evergreen broadleaf forest

C. grandibracteata China: W Yunnan 1750–1850, evergreen broadleaf forest

C. gymnogyma

var. gymnogyma China: SE Yunnan, SW Guangxi, S Guizhou 1000–1600, broadleaf forest or scrub

var. remotiserrata China: NE Yunnan, N Guizhou, S Sichuan 920–1350, china fir forest or broadleaf forest

C. kwangsiensis

var. kwangnanensis China: SE Yunnan 1550–1850, broadleaf forest

var. kwangsiensis China: SE Yunnan, W Guangxi 1500–1900, broadleaf forest

C. purpurea China: SE Yunnan 1500–2200, evergreen broadleaf forest

C. sinensis

var. assamica China: Yunnan, Guizhou, Gaungxi, Hainan; Vietnam; 100–1500, evergreen broadleaf forest

var. dehungensis China: S Yunnan, SW Yunnan 1000–1600, under forest or scrub

var. pubilimba China: SE Yunnan, Guangxi, W Guangdong, Hainan 240–1450, broadleaf forest

var. sinensis China: S China, SE Tibet; S Japan; N Myanmar 130–200, sparse forest or scrub

C. tachangensis China: E Yunnan, SW Guizhou, W Guangxi 1500–2250, evergreen broadleaf forest

C. taliensis China: W Yunnan 1300–2700, sparse forest / scrub

Think of this next time you look at a "wild treepu'er tea that looks uncanny; it could be one of 16 different wild tea camellias!
Tags: wild tea, ye sheng

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