Understand the real differences of green teas

Green tea Family 

Quite different from commercial green tea bags, green tea is the biggest family of Chinese teas with more than 300 in varieties in the family and there is a vast quality difference within each variety.

Green teas are unfermented and most sensitive to tea damaging factors such as high temperature, light and moisture.

A case report

A case report: A friend showed me one day a ‘special high quality Dragon Well green tea’ that she was given as a gift. She treasured it and kept in her cabinet for quite some time. Up inspection of the tea, it appeared to be quite a premium grade Dragon Well when fresh, but unfortunately was reduced to dry twigs after prolong and inadequate storage.

How to differenciate low vs high quality green tea

Following are some differences that distinguish between a premium fresh green tea and a low quality or lost quality tea:

Characters

Premium fresh green tea

Low grade green tea

Dry leaf colour Fresh, vibrant, yellow-green to dark green Old, dull, dark brown
Dry leaf shape

Regular and to the shape of the tea variety (flat, needle or curl/spiral) 

Irregular, loose and random

White down (an indication of volume of young leaves)

Plenty, fresh, and attached to the leaves Absence, old and brown or fallen off
Aroma (both leaves and brew)
Fresh, enjoyable and refreshing Absence
Brew colour Bright and clear Lifeless or cloudy
Brew texture Smooth Rough
Flavour

Varies depending on the tea variety, mellow, elegant and refreshing (eg, nutty, floral or fruity)

Lack of flavour or mouldy
After taste Lingering and refreshing Nil or rough and unpleasant

Reasons for the quality differences

There are many factors contributing to the green teas quality, from tea plants, harvesting, tea making skills to the final packaging and storage. More information at: tea quality.

Finding a good tea

A good cup of tea is illustrated by the ancient Chinese artist as ‘drew from haven’, yet some low grade teas are really not worth drinking.

Treat you tea experience as a journey of discovery, knowledge gathering, experimenting and joy and satisfaction. We Chinese have loved our teas for more than 2000 year. It is a beverage that has stood the test of time and green tea is certainly a jewel on the crown. 

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Jasmine green tea

Jasmine tea, what is it?

jasmine teaMost of the tea drinkers have more likely heard of ‘Jasmine tea’ than ‘jasmine green tea’. This is how it works.

The original and most traditional tea drinkers, the Chinese, have always been reluctant to blend their premium teas (similar to premium wines in this regard, the delicate texture and flavours are to be explored and enjoyed on their own.) Only the relatively lower grade teas, such as broken leaves or tea dust, are used for blending.

One ingredient however has long been noticed to somehow co-exist harmoniously with certain teas and this is the jasmine perfume/blossom. With their gentle and elegant perfume, limited amount can enhance certain unfermented teas (green teas) to yield a gently sweet flavour.

Are all Jasmine teas the same?

Like all other premium teas’ production this is done through skilful processing: carefully selected green teas, high quality jasmine blossoms, tightly controlled processing steps and the adequate storage of the product at the end. A high quality Jasmine green tea is a delicacy among Chinese teas, especially for those who enjoyed the jasmine perfume.

Some clarifications:

  • Jasmine teas are generally referring to jasmine scented teas (normally green teas). They are not teas made of Jasmine blossoms or leaves.
  • They are various quality grades of Jasmine teas, just like other Chinese teas. They could be made of low quality tea leaves and jasmine blossoms, or fresh high quality tea leaves and jasmine blossoms. (Low quality products are also possible if the high quality ingredients are not processed adequately.)
  • There is a fine balance of the amount of the jasmine blossoms used and the quantity of the tea leaves. The more does not necessary mean the better.
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Buy Green Tea online

 

buy green teaFor those who are new to green teas, buying the right one could be a bit of a challenge. The questions that I have been asked:

  • Can I order some green tea please (reality: there are more than 300 Chinese green teas with very distinctive individual characters.)
  • What is the best green tea?
  • Which green tea has the highest level of anti-oxidants?
  • Are all green teas bitter and grassy?
  • Are all loose leaf tea green tea?
  • Any the list keeps growing!

Green tea and its health benefit

Green tea is one of the very original teas and has been consumed in China for a long history. It is however relatively new to the west. The interest in green tea has been rapidly increasing in the last 20-30 years mainly due to the recent documentary of their numerous health benefits.
The health benefits of different green teas are similar, although the anti-oxidant level is believed to be associated with the quality grade of the tea more than the variety (different varieties of green teas are made of different sub-species of the same plant).
I have been advising our customers as follow:

  • Never forget that green tea was discovered as an enjoyable beverage to enhance lifestyle first
  • The health benefits are by-products
  • If you can find a green tea that suites your taste and in-cooperate it into your lifestyle, the health benefits will come naturally.

Purchase green tea online

Tea drinking is a life time journey for many and it is worth while taking time to investigate and find a tea and a supplier that meets you needs and satisfy your taste buds.
They are many online suppliers offering loose leaf green teas today, claiming to be premium quality. The quality range is however very big. There are supplier source their seasonal products directly from the tea farmers in China, transport and store appropriately while the others (with limited knowledge about premium fresh teas) simply purchase their products from a second or even third hand tea merchant. For the later, the product could be of low quality at production, being stored inadequately for a long time and sold under the same tea name for a profit, for example all under the same name Dragon Well green tea. The differences are evident to an experienced tea drinker.

Green tea buying tips:

  • The best green teas are the fresh ones (refreshing and aromatic, never bitter or rough)
  • All loose teas are quality graded and the difference could be quite big (similar to premium wine)
  • Do a thorough check of the site, if the supplier appears to have extensive firsthand knowledge about teas, the chances are you are likely to get some decent quality products.
  • Start from small amount but different varieties. Pick the one that satisfy your taste buds, you can then order bigger quality.
  • Try out some free samples if possible.
  • Tea bags are never of high quality, mainly because the broken leaves are heavily oxidised (different from fermentation!) at the edge to produce the bitter taste and rough texture

More information about green teas and their quality grades at: Tea and Quality.

 

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