1.The Number One Rule for Great Tea — If you love drinking it, it's good tea.
When it comes to defining what makes a good tea, all expert opinions are just guidelines. Remember, the tea that's truly right for you, the one that feels particularly satisfying and makes you crave more, that's the real good tea. The quality of tea is ultimately determined by your own taste buds, so you should purchase tea that matches your personal preference. Put simply, if it tastes good, that should be your primary reason for buying it.
2.Decide on the Type of Tea You Want to Purchase
China has six main categories of loose leaf tea. Based on the fermentation level, ranging from lowest to highest, they are: green tea, white tea, yellow tea, oolong tea, black tea, and dark tea (or fermented tea).
Characteristics of Green Tea
First and foremost, green tea is unfermented. Its key process is "fixation" or "killing the green", where high temperatures are used to neutralize the enzymes in the tea leaves. This process maximally retains the chlorophyll and catechins in the tea, giving it a fresh and brisk flavor. The aroma of green tea can range from vegetal and floral to bean-like and chestnut-like notes. So, when you sip green tea, it's that refreshing taste you're enjoying.
Who Should Drink Green Tea
Green tea is especially beneficial for those with a weaker constitution, those prone to inflammation or "heating up", or those who spend a lot of time in front of computers. Since green tea isn't fermented, it's high in catechins and vitamins, offering antibacterial and antiviral properties and helping to alleviate eye strain.
Green Tea Recommendations
With a myriad of fragrant green tea varieties influenced by different processes and grades, diving into Chinese green teas might seem daunting for newcomers. For those starting their journey, consider trying iTeaworld's latest curated collection of Chinese green teas. This green tea sampler handpicks six classic Chinese green teas, aiming to showcase the richness and diversity of flavors from various provinces. It encompasses a range of representative techniques and taste profiles, including: Longjing tea（Dragon Well） from Zhejiang, embodying the pan-roasting technique; Huangshan Maofeng from Anhui, revealing the crispness of high-mountain teas; Bi Luo Chun from Jiangsu, letting you experience the freshness of spring buds; Enshi Yulu from Hubei, offering a rich steamed flavor; Jasmine Green Tea from Guangxi, exuding floral notes; and Ancient Tree Green Tea from Yunnan, representing the profound depth of old tea trees. This set offers tea enthusiasts a perfect opportunity to fully appreciate the allure of Chinese green teas in one go.
Characteristics of White Tea
White tea undergoes minimal fermentation, with its core processing centered around sun-drying. The traditional method involves repeated drying, allowing the tea to ferment slightly on its own, retaining its natural flavor to the utmost degree. White tea has significant medicinal value and is often referred to as "a tea in its first year, a medicine in its third year, and a treasure in its seventh year."
Taste Profile of White Tea
White tea's taste is primarily refreshing. High-grade teas like Silver Needle and White Peony have a fresh, sweet taste with virtually no bitterness. Lower grades like Gong Mei and Shou Mei can be more bitter and may benefit from aging. Fresh white teas often have a clear, floral aroma or a slight grassy scent, while aged white teas develop a medicinal or aged fragrance.
Who Should Drink White Tea
White tea is especially suitable for individuals who frequently smoke or drink alcohol or those under significant work-related stress. This is because white tea contains abundant flavonoids that can help alleviate the bad breath associated with smoking and drinking. Additionally, it can improve sleep quality to some extent, ensuring a deeper, more restful sleep.
Varieties of White Tea
Traditionally, white tea is a specialty of Fujian province. It was first successfully produced in Fuding City, making Fuding white tea still regarded as the most authentic version. The world of white tea is diverse, with varieties like White Hair Silver Needle, White Peony, Gong Mei, and Shou Mei all belonging to the traditional six primary tea categories. Teas like Golden Flower White Tea or compressed tea made using traditional white tea processes are considered reprocessed white teas. Each variety has its unique quality and serves as a foundation for understanding white tea.
White Tea Product Recommendations
In China, for those interested in exploring more about white tea, consider checking out the white tea collection from iteaworld. This collection lets you experience the taste differences of various grades of white tea in a single package.
Characteristics of Yellow Tea
The third category is lightly fermented yellow tea. The core process of yellow tea is "sealing yellow." The main method involves wrapping the tea leaves, which have been either pan-fired or rolled, in paper, or stacking and covering them with a damp cloth. This allows the tea embryos to oxidize naturally under the influence of moisture and warmth, reducing bitterness. As a result, yellow tea has a sweet, mellow, and rich flavor. This "sealing yellow" process gives the tea infusion an added richness. Yellow tea is smoother than green tea, and its aroma has an added mature scent (similar to corn or chestnut) dominated by floral and fruity notes.
Who Should Drink Yellow Tea
Those who consistently suffer from poor digestion or lack of appetite can benefit from drinking yellow tea. The "sealing yellow" technique used in the production of yellow tea generates a significant amount of digestive enzymes, which can promote intestinal motility and aid digestion.
Yellow Tea Product Recommendations
Yellow tea is a lightly fermented tea, renowned for its rich and sweet profile, and is a niche among the six major tea categories. Depending on the picking standards, it can be classified into small leaf yellow tea and large leaf yellow tea. Notable varieties include Junshan Silver Needle, Meng Ding Yellow Buds, and Huoshan Yellow Buds. Those interested in sampling yellow tea can inquire with iteaworld's customer service to receive a free sample. Our selection prominently features the quintessential Junshan Silver Needle from the yellow tea category.
Characteristics of Oolong Tea
The fourth category is semi-fermented oolong tea, with its core processing technique being "shaking and spreading." This process consists of two stages: shaking and airing. After repeated shaking and spreading, the tea leaves undergo complex and rich aromatic changes. The initial vegetal taste gradually transforms into floral and fruity notes, which is why oolong tea often has a fragrant and mellow character.
Taste of Oolong Tea
The fifth category is fully fermented black tea. The central technique for black tea is fermentation. The rolled tea leaves are placed in fermentation frames or carts, covered with a fermentation cloth soaked in hot water, and after several hours of fermentation, they achieve the characteristic bright red color and full-bodied taste of black tea.
Who Should Drink Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is suitable for those with belly fat and those who are trying to lose weight. This is because the tannic acid in oolong tea can promote fat burning, especially after consuming greasy foods. Drinking it not only helps to cut the grease but also prevents weight gain.
Oolong Tea Product Recommendations
Oolong tea, also known as "blue-green tea", is a semi-fermented tea that has a fermentation level between green and black tea. Its processing technique combines methods from both green and black tea, making it distinctively unique. Oolong tea is categorized by its production regions, including Southern Fujian Oolong, Northern Fujian Oolong, Guangdong Oolong, and Taiwanese Oolong. The most iconic oolong teas include Tie Guan Yin, Da Hong Pao, Fenghuang Dancong, Shui Xian, and Rougui. If you're uncertain about which type to choose, consider the Oolong Tea Sampler introduced by Iteaworld. This oolong tea collection includes four renowned oolong teas, each with different fermentation levels and aromas: floral Tie Guan Yin, Phoenix Dancong, Zhangping Shui Xian, and Da Hong Pao.
Characteristics of Black Tea
The fifth category is the fully fermented black tea. The essence of black tea processing is fermentation. Once the tea leaves are rolled, they are placed in fermentation frames or carts and covered with a cloth soaked in hot water. After several hours of piled fermentation, the tea develops a vibrant red color and a rich, mellow taste.
Taste of Black Tea
Black tea leaves undergo full fermentation, resulting in a reddish-brown color. It is characterized by a robust taste, often accompanied by floral, fruity, and honey-like aromas. Some varieties, like Lapsang Souchong, also have a distinct pine smoke fragrance and longan aroma. It pairs well with milk or sugar.
Who Should Drink Black Tea
Individuals who consistently have cold hands and feet, or those who easily feel fatigued, can benefit from consuming black tea. This is due to the abundance of thearubigins and catechins found in black tea.
Black Tea Product Recommendations
Black tea can be broadly categorized into three types: Xiao Zhong black tea, Gongfu black tea, and broken black tea. In China, Gongfu black tea and Souchong black tea, both of which are loose-leaf teas, are predominantly consumed. Broken black tea is a type based on leaf morphology, including both Gongfu and Souchong varieties. Renowned black teas from China include Lapsang Souchong, Jin Jun Mei, yunnan black tea, Yingde Black Tea, Ning Hong, Sichuan Red, and Keemun. If you're looking to understand and compare renowned Chinese black teas, consider Iteaworld's Black Tea Sampler introduced in 2022. This collection features two different souchong black teas: one smoked version and one without the smoked flavor. It also includes the notable yunnan black tea and Yingde Black Tea. If you believe the collection doesn't offer enough variety, watch out for Iteaworld's upgraded Black Tea selection for 2023. This set will include six famous black teas: Keemun, Dian Hong, Yingde Black Tea, smoked Lapsang Souchong, a wild black tea made from pure wild tea leaves, and a black tea made from century-old ancient tea trees from Guangxi.
Characteristics of Dark Tea
The last category is post-fermented dark tea. The core process of dark tea is "compression". Dark tea used to be sold to border areas. To accommodate long-duration transportation and ease of storage, the refined dark tea is steamed and compressed into various shapes such as cakes, lumps, bricks, or even pressed into basket or bamboo tube forms. Dark tea is appreciated for aging – the older it gets, the better it tastes, capturing the essence of time and the transformation of aged tea.
Taste of Dark Tea
Dark tea leaves, having undergone extended fermentation and storage, turn dark brown and possess a profound aged aroma and unique taste. With the passage of time, its taste becomes even more refined, and the aroma can include medicinal notes, betel nut, and fungal fragrances.
Who Should Drink Dark Tea
Those with digestive issues can benefit from drinking dark tea, as the post-fermentation process results in a wealth of beneficial microbes that can help regulate the gut, dispel greasiness, and promote digestion.
Dark Tea Product Recommendations
Dark tea is a type of compressed post-fermented tea, including varieties like black bricks, Fu bricks, green bricks, Kang bricks, and Liu Bao tea. Each type of dark tea is specific to different regions. The primary producing areas for dark tea are in provinces like Hunan, Hubei, Guangxi, Yunnan, and Sichuan. The term "dark tea" encompasses various types including Hunan dark tea, Sichuan border tea, Hubei aged green tea, Yunnan Pu'er, and Guangxi Liu Bao tea.
If you're unfamiliar with these differences, look forward to Iteaworld's upcoming dark tea collection, featuring Hunan dark tea, Hubei dark tea, Yunnan Pu'er, and Guangxi Liu Bao tea.
Lastly, if you're unsure about the distinctions between the six major tea categories and wish to understand their typical flavors, keep an eye on Iteaworld's soon-to-be-launched classic collection of the six major tea categories. With this one box, you can compare and understand the differences among the six major tea categories.
3.Distinguishing Between Quality and Inferior Tea
3.1 Dry Tea
When assessing dry tea, mainly look at its shape, uniformity, color, and fuzziness. Different shapes, such as strip-shaped, flat, or round bead-shaped teas, have varying assessment standards. Strip-shaped tea should have tightly formed leaves; flat tea should be flat, even, and straight; bead-shaped tea should be dense and solid. High-quality dry tea should have a consistent shape and color, be free from broken leaves, stems, and other impurities. Some teas with fuzz should have a prominent and even fuzziness.
3.2 Liquor Color
The liquor color refers to the color of the brewed tea. During tasting, identify the tea's color – whether it's greenish, apricot yellow, reddish-brown, etc.; assess the brightness – whether it's luminous or dull; and evaluate the clarity – whether it's transparent or cloudy.
The aroma refers to the scent given off once the tea is brewed. You can use smelling cups, or you can directly smell the brewed tea or spent leaves. The aroma of tea varies and can be floral, aged, nutty, or pine-smoked, among others.
When tasting the tea, consider its strength, richness, freshness, bitterness, astringency, and any distinct tastes. Swirl the tea around in your mouth to get a full sense of its flavor profile.
3.5 Used Leaves
The used leaves or the leaves after brewing offer insights into the quality of the tea. These leaves should be evenly spread out to inspect their tenderness, uniformity, color, and purity.
4.Differentiating Spring, Summer, and Autumn Teas
In China, tea is harvested in three seasons: spring, summer, and autumn. Depending on the season, teas can have distinct flavors and characteristics.
When buying tea, have you paid attention to this information? Next time, consider it.
Try out the above techniques and feel free to share your tea selection experiences in the comments.