What flavour would YOU try? Scientists unravel the genome of the tea plant - and say it could lead to endless possibilities

Mail Online | 5/1/2017 | Richard Gray for MailOnline
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Tea drinkers already have a bewildering selection to choose from when making a brew, but they could soon face a range of enticing new flavours thanks to new research.

Scientists have unravelled the genome of the humble tea plant, which they hope to use to develop varieties with entirely new flavours.

Tea - Healthier - Compounds - Varieties

They also hope it may be possible to make tea healthier by boosting certain compounds and breeding varieties that are entirely caffeine free.

This would mean tea lovers would no longer need to turn to chemically treated decaffeinated tea or rooibos, which is made from a South African plant that is not in the tea tree family.

Professor - Lizhi - Gao - Plant - Geneticist

Professor Lizhi Gao, a plant geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Botany in China, who led the work to decode the tea tree genome, said their work had allowed them to identify the genetic basis of the flavours in tea.

It has also allowed them to identify genes that make a particular tea plant suitable for the different types of processing that produce black, green, oolong, yellow and white teas.

Breeders - Varieties - Tea - Tree - Flavours

This could be used by breeders to cultivate entirely new varieties of tea tree that blend different flavours or even have unique flavours, he said.

Professor Gao said: 'The knowledge of how to genetically form the tea flavours and tea-processing suitability will help breeders to develop different tea tree cultivars with more diversified set of tea favors.

'It - Hope - Tea - Cultivar - Varieties

'It is our hope that more new tea tree cultivar varieties would finally satisfy and attract more tea drinkers worldwide.'

Most teas are produced from the leaves of the evergreen shrub Camellia sinensis, which was originally native to Asia.

Species - Plant - Tea - Tree - Camellia

There are another 100 species of plant that are closely related to the tea tree in the Camellia family, but none are suitable for making tea.

The researchers compared the genes and compounds produced by the tea...
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