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Talking Tea

Conversations about tea and tea culture

May 25, 2017

When we serious tea drinkers start to broaden our knowledge of tea, we often encounter two terms that can seem mysterious or confusing: cultivar and origin. What is a tea cultivar, and why is it important? And what exactly does the origin of the tea refer to, and why should we care?

To begin looking in depth at cultivar and origin, we're joined today by Austin Hodge of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas. Austin is a prolific tea writer and blogger in addition to being a seller, and he's also the founder and director of the International Specialty Tea Association, a non-profit focused on developing quality standards for tea. We chat with Austin about his background in tea and his views on the importance of tea standards, and then we look in detail at two of those standards, namely (you guessed it) a tea's cultivar and its origin.

Austin talks with us about what "cultivar" means and how it relates to issues of biodiversity, tea production, the value and pricing of tea,  a tea's authenticity and transparency in marketing. We chat about origin in terms of the specifics of the growing location of a tea, why detail is important in looking at origin, and how soil makeup, micro-climate, altitude and sunlight exposure all come into play.

We also chat with Austin about the historical and cultural elements of both origin and cultivar, and how the history of a tea can impact our perception and enjoyment of it. In this connection we touch a bit on the history of China's Mengdingshan, the place where tea was first cultivated, and the teas grown there to this day.

You can find many of Austin's articles and blog posts, as well as the Seven Cups online store and info on the Seven Cups shop in Tuscon, Arizona, at the Seven Cups website, Austin is also a blogger at

More on the International Specialty Tea Association is at


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Talking Tea is produced and hosted by Ken Cohen. You can follow Ken on Twitter @Kensvoiceken. 


The views and opinions expressed by guests on Talking Tea are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Talking Tea or its staff.


This podcast features music from "Japanese Flowers" ( by mpgiiiBEATS ( available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license ( Adapted from original.


Photo of Austin Hodge at Mengdingshan courtesy of Austin Hodge.