KNOW THY TEA! (evaluating the quality of your tea)

A question many people ask us is, how do I know if I am buying good tea? Well, the answer can be tough. First of all, when it comes to Japanese Tea, the absolute majority of what makes it to our shores here in the USA is crap. Sorry to say it, but it is the bottom of the barrel (literally). Most large tea companies sell Japanese tea from late picked leaves. After the first picking in early late April/early May, a tea plant will produce several more harvests. The quality and price of the tea takes a dive after the first pick. In order to keep margins high, many retailers sell 2nd and 3rd pickings and jack the price while claiming its the highest quality tea. This unfortunate trend leads many people to believe that they don’t like the “brown and bitter” green teas of Japan. Here are a few quick pointers for quickly evaluating your tea:

1. Stay away from teas stored in Large (especially glass) containers and portioned out. The best teas will come packaged in oxygen free packaging. This guarantees the tea will not come in contact with LIGHT, HEAT, and MOISTURE (The 3 killers of good tea).

2. Tea should be GREEN! Sounds like an obvious point, but you would be surprised what people are selling. Avoid faded light green and brown tea (unless it is Houjicha).

3. Japanese tea should have an Aroma of spring. Grass, meadow flowers, marine notes, etc. If the tea has a stale, haylike, or no existent aroma, don’t get involved. Many of the deep flavors of tea are actually aromas. If it smells amazing, chances are it will taste the same.

4. Ask what growing season your tea was grown in. Teas are generally best when sold within about a year of their picking (as long as they are stored correctly). For example, we will sell spring 2011 tea through about june of 2012, when the new crop begins arriving. 

5. Look for uniformity in the leaf. A mix of needle shaped leaves and some flatter wider leaves is fine. But avoid overly stemmy, dusty or radically different sized leaves. 

All of our teas at Kettl are fresh, green, and stored in oxygen free packaging. We promise they are the best you’ve tasted, smelled, and looked at!

Below are some photos of some new teas that just arrived.

Thanks for reading.