How to Identify Good Tea

Making a good cup of tea may be an art form — but so is choosing good tea to begin with. And unlike the preparation (which is largely a matter of taste), choosing great tea is a little more objective. So when you open a new box of tea, here’s how you can tell whether it is of good quality or not.

Take a look.

Good loose leaf tea is generally intact and unbroken. This shows that your tea has been hand plucked, and processed and packaged with care. Broken tea leaves indicate that it has been machine harvested — and it tends to taste more bitter too.

As for CTC tea, larger pellets indicate that your tea is of a good quality. Low grade CTC tea will have too many small crumbs or dust. This gives you a darker colour, but it will not be too flavourful.

Pay attention to the texture.

No, this doesn’t refer to how the tea leaves feel in your hand. Rather, it refers to how the brewed tea feels in your mouth. Good tea should have a bright, bold flavour when you take the first sip, and should leave a delicious, lingering aftertaste in your mouth. Tea that tastes bland or is simply astringent without having any particular flavour can be an indication of lower quality.

Do note that the tea has to be brewed right first! Make sure you use the correct quantity of tea leaves and steep it for the right amount of time. Too much tea or too long a steep time can result in a bitter brew — even if the tea is of great quality.

Breathe in the aroma.

Good quality tea will have a rich aroma when it’s dry — and the smell should really open up once the leaves are wet. If you are struggling to detect any lingering fragrance, that can tell you that your tea is of lower quality — or simply not fresh enough.

This is one reason why it is so difficult to ascertain the quality of flavoured and blended teas. Manufacturers often use stronger smelling herbs and fruit flavours to mask the lower quality of the underlying tea. Do note that our teas are completely unblended, so you should have no trouble detecting the aromatic goodness of the leaves.

Admire the colour.

When brewed right, good black tea should give you a deep, rich red beverage. Green tea on the other hand, should have a light yellowish tinge. A cup of fragrant white tea should have a golden-orange tinge.