Cropped shot of woman pouring tea in traditional chinese teaware.

There’s a strong association between quality of Chinese teas and their pleasure. Chinese teas are very similar to wine in this respect, with local rates for the identical tea varying radically based on perceived quality. For instance the community Chinese cost for 500 gms of Dragon Well tea (the most common green), could vary between $US 3 and $US 3,000 (ie a 1000 fold difference) associated with perceived quality. Since the neighborhood Chinese market is relatively mature with experienced buyers, the local people generally understands and accepts this – but other buyers, especially westerners may get confused by the grade differentials within the identical Chinese tea kind (ie Dragon Well Tea).

Are all teas tagged with ‘premium’ quality great quality?

Short Answer : No. There are teas on the market labelled ‘exotic’ and ‘authentic’ of very low quality, or with insufficient packaging or storage to allow quality retention.

How significant is the geographical association with a tea kind?

Tea is a very traditional item. It takes a very long history to enhance the art of manufacturing particular to a sort of tea produced in a place with conditions favouring that tea variety. For instance Dragon Well tea is traditionally produced in the Western Lake region in ZheJiang province, which as a tradition of the best plants and natural conditions for this tea plant. Competition between tea producers in the area has attracted the very best craftsmen to grow, harvest and create this tea kind. Techniques that provide an edge are a closely guarded secret and handed down through families. As such, an individual wouldn’t associate say FuJian Province (where the finest Oolong teas are produced) with quality Dragon Well Tea.

Indications of quality green tea

Packaging and storage

This is particularly important for green teas. High quality teas, subjected to elevated temperature, air (oxidation), foreign and light order will deteriorate quickly.

Vacuum sealed and refrigerated after generation is an indicator of high quality teas. By comparison Grüner Tee left sitting on a grocery store shelves, even though in a shiny container (and particularly if the container is a glass jar ) rarely are of high quality, because tea quality is degraded by exposure to room light and temperatures.

Appearance

Premium quality teas always have the ideal appearance.

        • Leaf shape: diverse green tea varieties may have different shapes as a consequence of tea making procedures – strings, flat, needle shape, spiral and ball form. Dragon Well tea for example is a level tea, the tea leaves should be full bodied, smooth and flat.
        • Tenderness of the leaves: green teas are made from tender foliage tips, not more than 1 bud, two leaves.
        • The abundance of white fur on the back of the leaves is also a great indicator regarding the freshness and youth of the tea leaves.

Colour

This also changes with the sort of tea. Some excellent signs include glossily/fresh green, dark green or green with”tinny” yellow (like Dragon Well). Indications of low quality are: a range of tea shapes/lack of body, leaves of different phases (young and older ), dull/dark/lack of gloss in color.

In summary then, for instance, Dragon Well Tea quality is indicated by horizontal full leaves of constant size which are a green with “tinny” yellow foliage color.

Freshly brewed

      • A clear tea liquid.
      • A new aroma.
      • A refreshing original taste.
      • A lingering after taste.

Indications of low quality: the liquid is cloudy (do not confuse with the existence of floating fur from green tea leaves that suggests good quality). A sour or sour taste. Lack of flavour or freshness.