The value of a great cup of tea depends mainly on the quality of leaves used. If the tea you use has low quality leaves you are left with a bad tasting cup of tea, which is bound to ruin the whole experience of having a delicious cup of tea. Tea auctioneers have different ways of defining the quality of tea, they use a complex system of grading leaves that are sold in auctions. But for everyday buying you needn’t follow this complex system as it will surely leave you confused. There are three main ways to determine the quality of tea for everyday buying, all you have to do is look, smell, taste.
When it comes to the appearance of tea, you should always make sure to look at the shape of the tea leaf and the color. Every tea leaf has its own distinctive shape. Good tea leaves have a pleasant luster, teas that have been picked by machines have broken leaves which has been cut into pieces and also may contain stems. Quality teas are always handpicked so the leaves remain undamaged. Watch the leaves when they are brewed, if they expand uniformly and sink slowly as they are infused, it is good quality tea. Next you have to look at the color of the liquor once brewed. All teas once brewed has different colors, Black tea should be bright reddish and golden in color, if it is green tea it should be emerald or golden in color, if the liquor turns out to be a dark brown, then its a stale green tea, likewise all teas have its distinctive colors when brewed, if it turns out the colors do not appear as described, the quality of the leaves have been diminished.
The next step of determining the quality tea includes its’ fragrance. The odor of tea can say a lot about its’ taste. Once the tea has been poured, the fragrance will depend on its’ degree of fermentation. Tea leaves should not have a carbon, parched, smoked or any other odor, if so this is a sure sign the leaves are of a low quality. Green Teas should have a light, fresh, soothing fragrance, from a light orchid to a chest-nutty odor. Black tea should contain a sweet, floral fragrance and the smell should not be easily lost.
Of all the ways to understand the quality of tea, the most important is the quality of its’ taste. The taste can tell you all about the tea, its strength, the bitter or sweet quality of it, and its freshness. If the astringency and the aftertaste are pleasant and balanced it’s good quality tea, if they happen to have an overly bitter or a moldy taste, you should be able to know right away the tea leaves are of low quality. Green tea has a fresh taste, not stale and should not be too astringent. Black tea has a full bodied and fresh taste. In general good tea should have a sweet after taste, it should linger for a noticeably longer time after the tea has been tasted. If you are not able to taste a brewed cup of tea then make sure to taste the leaves, if you take some and chew they should produce a wonderfully mellow and fresh taste.
Additionally you can determine the quality by touching the leaves, you can know if the leaves are smooth or coarse, whether or not it crumbles easily and whether leaves are heavy or light. What ever the tea it should not crumble easily, if it does it has been baked for too long or the tea is old.
It’s always better to trust your instincts. Even if you are able to buy the most expensive tea, it is worth nothing to you if you don’t like it. So find the best tea that suits you and enjoy.