Learn About Tea
August 22, 2012
Tea leaves hold important clues to the quality of the eventual brew. The first step to tasting tea is to ensure you are brewing the right kind. Many of the teas are so rare that they are not always sold as the same grade. In each tasting chart I have provided a description of the appearance of the leaves; if yours look dramatically different, your tea may not be as good.
The leaves should look consistent with one another, as though they came from the same plant. Poorly made tea can have an odd mixture of shapes, from shoddy manufacturing or, worse, fraud, blending leaves from a variety of plants. Cheaply harvested tea will also contain bits of stalk. With the exception of Hojicha, an all-stalk tea, the best teas contain teas only.
Next, examine the leaf size. If the chart says the leaves should be about one inch long but your tea leaves average a quarter of an inch or less, you have, unfortunately, bought an inferior tea. Lots of small particles will translate to a brisk blunt taste. Similarly, some tea makers incorporate longer, older leaves when the finest versions include only the youngest and smallest.
Finally, check the dried leaves’ aroma. The dry leaves offer a quick preview of the tea’s taste. Breathe on the leaves through your mouth, as though you were clouding up a glass pane. The moisture will trigger the release of the tea’s aromas. Immediately inhale the moist breath through your nose. If the tea is stale, the aromas may seem subdued. Most good teas begin to go stale after six months and should not be drunk after two tears.
Once you are confident your tea is good and fresh, measure it out. While water temperature and brewing times vary for each tea, the ratio of tea to water is constant; For 8 ounces of water, measure out rounded teaspoon, or .079 ounces (2.2 grams).