Quality Tea! What is it and why should you be on the lookout for one? Before we delve deeper into how to identify good quality tea – be it loose leaf tea, Ctc tea, green tea, organic tea, herbal tea, or premium teas, let us first understand why quality is a top factor while selecting tea.
Yes, low grade tea is cost effective and easily available in stores, but it is in many ways sub-par. This becomes evident especially in areas of flavour, taste and health benefits which is not worth the penny saved. In fact, overall, low-grade tea could even cost more than high-quality loose-leaf tea. This is because low grade tea cannot be steeped or reinfused more than once while premium black teas are strong and allow multiple infusions. Same applies to green teas, they are more refreshing with vegetal notes if the quality is higher.
At Octavius, we know that tea for most of our customers, is a central aspect of their day-to-day life. We deeply respect that our teas are part of your daily routine. We believe that our heartening flavours and refreshing aromas make an impact on your health every single day. If it is something you consume daily, won’t you be mindful of its contents? There is a world of difference between a run of the mill supermarket tea and top-shelf loose leaf tea, here are some ways through which you can identify quality tea before you stock them in your kitchen.
Looks do matter, especially for teas! The best tea leaves are sorted properly hence have a consistent shape. So, if it is loose leaf tea, make sure that the leaves have more less a uniform size. If it is powder tea, it should have a dark brown appearance.
Tea leaves of good quality have a nice texture which has a smooth feel to it. Experts say that premium teas feel feather light when held between your fingers. If it seems rough then it is most probably not of good quality.
Premium Teas have an undisputable aroma. Hence good quality can be authenticated by the aroma. Low quality teas have a faint aroma.
4. Flavour Note
From Assam tea to Early Grey, the distinct flavours are evident along with the tasting notes. The flavour becomes even more well-defined when the tea is hand processed and made from superior quality ingredients. The brew taste and aroma are strong, flavourful, and clean unlike mass manufactured tea.
5. Tea Grade
Typically, during tea manufacturing, tea leaves are passed through sieves for tea gradation. Most of the store-bought teas are low grade which means that you only get the fine leaf shavings and dust that remain at the end of the process. Premium quality organic teas comprise of whole leaves that is responsible for the full-bodied flavour. Teas are classified as Whole Leaf, Broken Leaf, Fanning’s and Dust and is graded by Leaf in each class. This is one indicator that you could look out for in the label.
You might have already got an idea about what excellent quality tea type looks like. Here are some things that a seasoned tea expert will look for in a tea. Rest assured that we at Octavius take every measure to ensure our quality checks are first-rate!
1. Shape of tea leaf
The plucked tea leaf should be whole, without tears which indicate that it was hand picked with care and not just harvested by a machine. A tea connoisseur has a good eye for this.
A tea expert will make certain the leaves have a consistent shape and size. The uniformity proves that there was a definite plucking standard. Good quality tea would only have young tea leaves and buds while low grade tea would have leaves of all shapes, sizes and woody fragments indicating that a standard was not followed.
3. Time of Harvest
Tea tasters will ask for the time of harvest of teas. Premium teas have a specific harvest time that must be followed. Most high-quality teas are harvested at the beginning of spring season. In fact, there is a window of just one week to get the ideal quality leaves that are not too mature due to over exposure to the sun.
The terrain of tea plantations makes a lot of difference when it comes to the quality of teas, and a tea taster know this well. If a location is one thousand meters above sea level, then it is considered as high elevation and the tea referred to as “high-mountain” tea
5. The four senses test
By using four of his heightened senses, a tea connoisseur can easily identify excellent quality tea. Sight: The loose-leaf tea should not contain many stalks or uneven leaves. It should unfurl slowly as you steep. Smell: Quality tea has a distinct aroma; black tea must smell earthy and sweet while green tea must smell grassy. Herbal teas must smell of their respective flavour. When steeped, the aroma amplifies. Low grade tea could have an unpleasant or faint aroma. Taste: Good quality tea has a strong mouthfeel with fine tasting notes. Take a slow sip and let the flavours get to you – they can range from smooth, bright, deep to intense or refreshing. Low quality would be more bitter, astringent with unpleasant undertones. Touch: The dried loose-leaf tea should be unbroken and sturdy. It should not be light weight while you hold it in your palm and must not crumble with gentle handling.