​The Art and Science of Creating New Tea Cultivars in Taiwan

Taiwan is well known for its rich tea culture and a plethora of tea cultivars. Creating new tea cultivars in Taiwan is a blend of traditional knowledge, passed down over generations, and cutting-edge science led by dedicated researchers and agricultural institutions.

The Importance of Cultivars in Tea Production

A tea cultivar is a plant variety that has been selectively bred for specific characteristics, such as flavor, aroma, and resistance to pests and diseases. The idea behind creating a variety of cultivars in Taiwan is to increase the diversity and quality of tea offerings on the island. Taiwan has many different climates and the geography varies significantly across the island. Producing a range of cultivars is one strategy to ensure a consistent supply of high quality tea.

The Role of Agriculture Universities

Taiwan's agricultural universities, particularly the National Taiwan University (NTU) and the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), are at the heart of tea cultivar development. These institutions bring together expertise in botany, genetics, and agronomy to innovate and improve tea plants.

National Taiwan University (NTU)

NTU's Department of Agronomy has been a pioneer in the field of tea research. The university's research programs focus on genetic improvement, sustainable farming practices, and enhancing the sensory qualities of tea. NTU collaborates with local tea farmers and industry stakeholders to trial new cultivars in different environmental conditions, ensuring they meet the practical needs of the market.

Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI)

TARI is another key player in Taiwan's tea innovation landscape. Established in 1895, TARI has a long history of agricultural research. Its Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES) in Nantou County is dedicated to the study and development of tea. TRES conducts extensive breeding programs to create cultivars that are not only high-yielding and resilient but also possess unique flavor profiles that appeal to global markets.

The Process of Creating a New Tea Cultivar

Creating a new tea cultivar is a meticulous process that can take over a decade to complete. Here's a step-by-step look at how it's done:

1. Selection of Parent Plants

The process begins with the selection of parent plants that exhibit desirable traits. These traits can include superior flavor, disease resistance, drought tolerance, and adaptability to specific climatic conditions. Researchers cross-pollinate these plants to combine their genetic strengths.

2. Seedling Cultivation

The seeds produced from the cross-pollination are germinated and grown into seedlings. Each seedling represents a unique genetic combination, and researchers carefully observe them for several years to identify those that show promising characteristics.

3. Field Trials

Promising seedlings are planted in experimental fields where they undergo rigorous evaluation under different environmental conditions. Researchers assess their growth, yield, and resistance to pests and diseases. The sensory qualities of the tea produced from these plants are also evaluated through taste tests and chemical analysis.

4. Selection and Naming

After years of testing and refinement, the best-performing plants are selected as new cultivars. These cultivars are then given official names and released to tea farmers for commercial production. Some of Taiwan's famous tea cultivars, like the TTES No. 18 (also known as Ruby Red), originated from these breeding programs.

5. Ongoing Improvement

Even after a new cultivar is released, the work continues. Researchers monitor the cultivar's performance in different regions and work on further improvements to enhance its quality and resilience.

Contributions of Scientific Organizations

In addition to universities, various scientific organizations contribute to the development of new tea cultivars in Taiwan. The Council of Agriculture (COA) and its affiliated institutes provide funding and support for research projects. The Taiwan Tea Manufacturers’ Association (TTMA) plays a vital role in promoting new cultivars and ensuring their successful adoption by tea producers.

The Impact of New Cultivars

The introduction of new tea cultivars has a profound impact on Taiwan's tea industry. They help maintain the island's reputation for producing premium teas, adapt to changing climate conditions, and meet the evolving preferences of tea drinkers worldwide. Moreover, these innovations contribute to the sustainability and economic viability of tea farming in Taiwan.


The creation of new tea cultivars in Taiwan is a testament to the island's dedication to excellence and innovation in tea production. Through the collaborative efforts of agricultural universities, scientific organizations, and passionate tea farmers, Taiwan continues to delight tea enthusiasts with unique and high-quality teas. As you sip your next cup of Taiwanese tea, take a moment to appreciate the science and artistry behind the leaves.