The Best Tea – How To Select The Best Premium Tea
Here are some rules to follow to buy the best tea.
1. Appearance – Loose tea leaves come in various shapes. There are flats, needles, strips, granules, pearl shapes, powder, flakes and cakes or bricks shapes. The tea leaves of the best tea feel tender to the touch and are hairy. Good quality gunpowder tea uses older tea leaves and the rolled pellets of tea leaves are well-tightened and curled with shining dark green color. The finest quality teas have the tea leaf tips still intact. The better the quality, the less the impurities such as tea stalks, dry and withered fragments.
2. Moisture content – Premium tea 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 tea 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. Tea liquor – 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.
6. Tea leaves – Fresh tea leaves which have undergone fine processing will gradually open up through a few infusions, imparting a rich flavor to the tea. Old leaves on the other hand, open out too quickly after hot water is poured over it and resulting tea has a plain taste. Subsequent infusions have no aroma or taste. You might even detect a strange smell coming from the tea.
The best oolong tea can be brewed multiple times from the same leaves and still taste great, improving with each infusion.
7. Taste - Premium green tea tastes slightly bitter with an aftertaste. Premium black teas are on the sweet side and low grade ones have an astringent taste.
8. High grade tea – High grade unfermented tea such as Silver Needle or Maojian tea, have a fairly large number of buds. Premium Tie Guan Yin tea 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 tea plant whereas lower grade ones will have some leaves as well.
9. Green tea powder or loose leaf green tea – A cup of tea made from green tea powder will have the entire nutrients of the whole tea leaf dissolved inside the tea. A cup of tea steeped from loose leaf tea leaves will just have the water-soluble nutrients of the tea 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 erh tea from Yunnan. Sencha tea and Royal Matcha green tea are famous Japanese green tea. The high grade Darjeeling tea is a very famous tea from West Bengal, India.
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.