Black tea is celebrated globally for its distinct flavors and alluring aromas. Yet, given the vast array of black tea varieties, each with its own quality tier, many tea lovers, especially those in the West, might feel a bit overwhelmed when diving into the world of loose-leaf black tea. Not quite sure how to discern the good from the not-so-good? Fret not! iTeaworld has you covered with some straightforward and practical tips.
Some of the tips below will help you find the best loose leaf tea quickly.
1.Check the Color and Appearance
a.Lay the dry loose-leaf black tea on white paper or a white porcelain plate. Take note of its uniformity, color consistency, and any golden fuzz present. If the leaves are tightly rolled, free from noticeable breakage, and have minimal crushed particles, you're probably looking at a top-tier tea. A dark, glossy hue suggests a fresh tea, while a grayish-brown indicates an older one.
2.Feel with Your Fingers
a.Quality loose leaf black tea should have tightly curled leaves that feel dense to the touch. Flimsy, loose strands usually hint at an inferior grade. Feeling the leaves can also clue you in on its dryness: premium tea often feels prickly and snaps easily when rubbed, turning to powder. In contrast, tea that feels damp lacks this characteristic.
3.Smell the Aroma
a.Quality loose leaf teas exude a sweet fragrance. Once brewed, they should radiate a pure and sweet aroma. Inferior teas, especially those improperly processed, might have off-putting smells like sourness, staleness, mold, or a sunburned scent. If the dry leaves don't give much away, brewing might reveal more.
4.Observe the Brew
a.After brewing, assess the color of the tea liquid. Top-notch loose-leaf black tea should produce a bright, clear, and vivid red infusion. The tea leaves should unfurl entirely, showcasing a tender quality. On the other hand, a dark, murky brew with leaves that don't fully expand and appear dull might not be your best pick.
5.Taste the Flavor
Premium loose leaf black tea should taste sweet, rich, and smooth. Lapsang Souchong is robust and has a lingering sweetness. (Note: There are two main types of Lapsang Souchong. One is made using modern methods without pine-smoke drying, and the other, made using traditional techniques, undergoes pine-smoke drying. The latter has a richer taste, coupled with sweet longan undertones and a distinct pine-smoke aroma.) Gōngfū black teas, like Yunnan Black Tea, Yingde Black Tea, and Ninghong, typically have a "fresh, concentrated, and rich" profile. Lower quality teas tend to be more astringent, bitter, and might even carry off-flavors.
While these are some general tea-selection pointers, in-depth tea selection skills require knowledge of tea grades, harvesting seasons, and more. Stay tuned as Iteaworld will continue to dish out more details for you.