Qiaomu (乔木) and Guanmu (灌木)

Written by William le 09 february 2012


On many Pu-erh wrappers, you can see written Qiaomu (乔木), it means the tea comes from arbors: plants with a trunk.




There are two main types of tea plants:


-the tea bushes, Camellia sinensis var sinensis, is the most common in China, Taiwan and Japan. Its base is made of many branches, not from a single trunk. Its leaves are small and round, it gives a very fragrant liquor and is not too aggressive.
-the tea tree, Camellia sinensis var Assamica, that grew originally from Yunnan to Assam (India). This one has a trunk. It can grow very tall and is more resistant than var Sinensis. Its leaves vary in size but are larger than var Sinensis.



Camellia Sinensis var Assamica in Pandam Tea Estate, Darjeeling


Camellia Sinensis var Sinensis in Pandam Tea Estate, Darjeeling


Sometimes, the Qiaomu appellation is translated as ''big trees'', this is very misleading. Virtually all of Pu-erh tea comes from Qiaomu. A 500 years old tea tree and a 10 years old one from var Assamica are both Qiaomu.



Young natural tea garden in Youle mountain




Qiaomu can be generally called ''big leaf varietal'', inside this varietal, there are bigger and smaller leaves: Nannuo, Youle, Jingmai, Yibang and others have some smaller leaves than Yiwu and southern Bulang for example. Yet, those leaves are rarely as small Guanmu.



medium sized assamica leaves on Nannuo.


In India, the var Assamica is more cultivated for it's more robust taste that gives a full bodied liquor to the British drinker. The var Sinensis, or ''China'' varietal, as it is called there, grows in a few places and is often blended, it brings more fragrance to the liquor. Darjeeling tea often has a lot of var Sinensis in its blend.The wild tea trees which grow in Yunnan (Wuliang, Ailao, Yiwu, Daxueshan...) are not Camelia Sinensis, each of the places have somewhat unique species like C. Taliensis, C. Irrawadiensis, C. Crassiscolumna... This explain the very different taste of wild tea.


Wild tea leaves have a different aspect, they are darker and more contrasted.

       



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