Price and quality are often two factors that go hand in hand when we buy a product, and this also applies to tea. The absolute best qualities of tea are rarely cheap. On the other hand, you really get a taste experience that is not only worth all the money, but also something out of the ordinary.
A good tea can have the same properties as a good bottle of wine. Like a noble bottle of wine revealing the story of the year it was harvested and the hands that have meticulously handled each grape, each tea tells a story that is equally complex and nuanced.
But how do we actually define quality tea?
What is quality tea?
In order for a tea to qualify as a quality tea, there are some points that must be met. When we talk about quality tea, we’re referring to the many elements that come together to create an incomparable tea experience. This applies to b.la. the quality of the tea leaf, the place of cultivation, the harvesting process, and the subsequent processing.
- Tea leaf quality – The basis of any tea is the tea leaf. The quality of tea leaves is crucial to the final quality of tea. The best teas often use only the finest leaves that are carefully chosen for their size, shape, color, and texture. In premium teas, only the young, fresh shoots (the top shoots just below the bud, also known as “Flushen”) are often used – a method known to produce the most aromatic and delicate tea.
- The place of cultivation – Like wine, terroir – the unique environment in which tea grows – also affects the taste and quality of tea. Factors such as soil composition, altitude, climate, and surrounding vegetation can all affect the taste of tea in surprising ways. For example, Darjeeling tea, which is grown in the cool climate of the Himalayas, is known for its unique “muscatel” flavor that cannot be replicated anywhere else.
- The harvesting process – Quality tea requires careful and gentle treatment during harvest. It is a very costly and time-consuming process. Many high-quality teas, such as Gyokuro, are harvested only once a year, often using traditional harvesting methods. Some teas, such as Matcha, are even grown in the shade to promote chlorophyll production and create a rich, umami flavor.
- The processing process – After harvesting, the tea leaves must go through several processing steps to become the final tea. These can vary greatly depending on the type of tea, but can generally include wilting, rolling, fermentation, oxidation, and drying. Each process is carefully controlled to ensure that the taste, aroma, and color of the tea leaves are improved.
The true quality tea is defined not only by its refined, pure and complex nuanced taste, but also by the aroma, the appearance of the tea leaf and the color of the tea water. A good quality tea should be rich in flavor, flavored, with clear and colorful tea water. It should provide a long-lasting powerful aftertaste that stays in the mouth long after the tea has been drunk.
Which tea is the best?
The short answer is that it is up to you and your taste buds. It can be a slightly bigger task when figuring out what is the best tea. Taste is individual and a matter of preference. Do you prefer a strong black tea, light and fresh green tea, or perhaps the floral taste of a white tea?
There are some general criteria for the quality of tea which include, freshness, how well the tea leaves are processed, and how clean and clear the taste is. Teas like Darjeeling, Assam, Longjing, and Tieguanyin are internationally recognized for their quality.
Read more about cultivation and production here: