How do you differentiate premium tea from lower grade ones? Should you consider buying green tea powder or in loose leaves? What about the organic version? What is the best tea?
Here are some rules to follow to buy the best that you can find.
1. Appearance – Loose leaves come in various shapes. There are flats, needles, strips, granules, pearl shapes, powder, flakes and cakes or bricks shapes. The best leaves feel tender to the touch and are hairy. Good quality gunpowder tea uses older leaves and the rolled pellets of tea leaves are well-tightened and curled with shining dark green color. The finest quality will have the leaf tips still intact. The better the quality, the less the impurities such as stalks, dry and withered fragments.
2. Moisture content – Premium leaves have low moisture content, meaning that the dried leaves break easily with just a slight press of the fingers. If leaves are too damp, the brewed tea does not have a good taste or aroma.
3. Tea color – The main colors are red, green, yellow, white, black. The best Longjing (Dragon Well) tea, Xihu Longjing, is slightly yellow in color whereas the lower quality ones are greenish in color.
4. Aroma – Premium tea has a wonderful aroma with no stale or strange smell.
5. A cup of brewed premium tea looks bright and clear whereas a cup of low-grade tea will be dark and turbid. A cup of good quality oolong tea should be golden-yellow in color, white tea has a light apricot hue while green tea looks yellowish-green. The cup of best black tea is bright red in color, thus called red tea by the Chinese Matcha kaufen.
6. Fresh leaves which have undergone fine processing will gradually open up through a few infusions, imparting a rich flavor to the water. Old leaves on the other hand, open out too quickly after hot water is poured over it and resulting in a plain taste. Subsequent infusions have no aroma or taste. You might even detect a strange smell coming from your cup.
The best oolong can be brewed multiple times from the same leaves and still taste great, improving with each infusion.
7. Taste – Premium greens taste slightly bitter with an aftertaste. Premium blacks are on the sweet side and low-grade ones have an astringent taste.
8. High grade unfermented tea such as Silver Needle or Maojian, have a fairly large number of buds. Premium Tie Guan Yin have soft, fleshy leaves which open up showing red rims with extremely smooth surface. High grade white tea consists of the whitish buds of the plant whereas lower grade ones will have some leaves as well.
9. Powder or loose leaves – A cup of tea made from the powder will have the entire nutrients of the whole leaf dissolved inside the water, whereas, if steeped from loose leaves will just have the water-soluble nutrients of the leaf.
Examples of premium teas from China include Xihu Longjing (Dragon Well from West Lake), Anxi Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy from Anxi) and the world-famous Pu’er from Yunnan. A fine example of the best black tea is from Darjeeling, India. Japan produces premium green tea powder such as the royal matcha.
Enjoying a cup of the best tea you can buy is one of life’s many little joys, calming, relaxing and yet so full of life.