Tea, one of the world’s most important beverage crops, provides numerous secondary metabolites that account for its rich taste and health benefits. Here, we present a high-quality sequence of the genome of tea, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis (CSS), using both Illumina and PacBio sequencing technologies. At least 64% of the 3.1-Gb genome assembly consists of repetitive sequences, and the rest yields 33,282 high-confidence predictions of encoded proteins. Divergence between two major lineages, CSS and Camellia sinensis var. assamica (CSA), is calculated to ~0.38-1.54 million years ago (mya). Analysis of genic collinearity reveals that the tea genome is the product of two rounds of whole-genome duplications (WGD) that occurred ~30-40 mya and ~90-100 mya. We provide evidence that these WGD events, and subsequent paralogous duplications, had major impacts on the copy numbers of secondary metabolite genes, particularly genes critical to producing three key quality compounds: catechins, theanine and caffeine. Analyses of transcriptome and phytochemistry data show that amplification and transcriptional divergence of genes encoding a large acyltransferase family and leucoanthocyanidin reductases are associated with the characteristic young leaf accumulation of monomeric galloylated catechins in tea, while functional divergence of a single member of the glutamine synthetase gene family yielded theanine synthetase. This genome sequence will facilitate understanding of tea genome evolution and tea metabolite pathways, and will promote germplasm utilization for breeding improved tea varieties.

Enjoy some photos of cultivation of tea: