There are an infinite variety of tea bushes found around the world. With the aid of modern science, planters have been looking at harvesting tea from certain types of bush found desirable for their specific needs. Some of these specifics are:
VP stands for vegetatively propagated tea. These are tea bushes which have been identified as having a characteristics that is desirable. The characteristic could be a number of things; perhaps it is a high yielding bush, or maybe it resists pests and diseases better. It might grow better in a certain climate or the flavour produced brings a different dimension to a cup of tea. VP Teas are cuttings from a seedling bush that have been then grown in an estate nursery. Essentially, they are a clone of the original bush.
In Sri Lanka there are a number of VP teas that line the slopes of the plantations around the country. TRI 2025, N2, DT1, W26 the list goes on. While the importance of VP tea is essential to the running of a large plantation it is critical to assure that a split of seedling bushes is also planted on the estate.
Seedling tea is, as the name indicates, tea that is grown from seeds. Thus, each bush is unique, in the way it looks to the way the tea grown to its taste.
Get up and close with some seedling bushes and you will see the subtle differences. One bush may have a slightly larger leaf, another might have leaves with a serrated edge, and some leaves are darker in colour. A planting of seedling bushes is essential to keep a unique flavour to each cup. This is why all plantations will carry a good split of seedling to VP teas.
I caught up with Asanka De Tissera, Superintendent of Laxapana group on Moray estate in Maskeliya to understand why seedling tea is so vital to have on a plantation. Moray estate is found at the very foothills of Adams Peak and the seedling bushes we visited are over 100 years old. Planted by the very first British planters who came to Ceylon, the Rajamallay division of Moray contains a significant number of original seedling tea bushes.
While Moray itself contains other fields and divisions of seedling bushes, the bushes on Rajamallay have significant importance as these are the very bushes that were planted by the pioneer planters after the coffee blight struck Ceylon in the late 1870’s.
You can watch the video here and understand the importance of seedling tea from a current planter who has over 28 years experience in the industry.
Dananjaya Silva represents PMD Teas.