Thursday, March 13, 2014

How not to fail on shopping tea online


What is your criterion when you buy tea online?
You might not know if the tea is good even though you read the description. Shops usually write nice things about their tea. You might have wondered if this is worth its price or if it is really delicious. You cannot smell or taste it online. What should you consider when choosing tea? I think that the pictures of tea on the site is very important. A picture is worth a thousand words. You can’t tell everything from pictures but you can tell a lot. Here is a quiz. If you find two teas at the same price, which tea will you buy, A or B? One has better quality than the other. 



Check color and shape
This quiz is not difficult for people who is familiar to Japanese tea. If you don’t know which tea is good, you are lucky: today I’m writing this for you. The answer is “B”. Actually they are not the same price. A is 2,000yen/100g and B is 4,000yen. 
First, check the color and texture. Good tea has profound hue of dark green and luster on surface. It is not good to have yellowish, reddish tone or dried texture. 
Next, let’s look at the shape. Good tea consists even shaped pieces. They are like thin needles. Young soft leaves can become good tasting tea. They are elastic and can be rolled up nicely. While it is difficult to tightly roll stiff leaves and they can break during production. That is why pieces gets more uneven and rough with low grade tea. You will find whitish stems, distorted and small broken pieces.
Now, let’s take a look the pictures once again. Doesn’t “B” look better now?

Shop wisely
I hope that knowing this mere fact makes a lot of difference in your future shopping. The tea A and B in the photos are both gyokuro, but this rule works for kabusecha and sencha (not deep-steamed sencha), too.   Look for tea with even pieces of tightly-rolled deep-green leaves and this is the tip for less risk of failing on shopping for tea.

14 comments:

  1. Great site, valuable and very useful information,you has provided us for that I really thankful to you.

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  2. I've bought some teas from http://www.uptontea.com before. They offer sample packets for their teas for much cheaper than it would cost to buy normally. This is useful if you're curious about a new kind of tea or if you just want to see how good the quality of the tea is.

    http://www.redleaftea.com/free-matcha-en/ also has free samples of matcha every month! You just have to pay for shipping. I tried their vanilla matcha in January because I had never had flavored matcha before.

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  3. I have read the post and the information which you have shared that is really good and useful.

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  4. So, if a sencha isn't of the highest quality, and the leaves are a bit yellowish and rough, but they are still first flush, why are they this way? What is the farmer doing during harvest that is leading to less quality tea leaves?

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Bamboo forest-san,
      I guess that the yellowish sencha that you are talking about is probably fukamushi (deep-steamed) sencha. I should have clarified that sencha that I mentioned in this post was about regular sencha. I’m sorry for confusion.
      In the producing process, they steam the tea longer than usual sencha, which makes the leaves yellowish and more fragile. That’s why Fukamushi sencha consists of small pieces. This is a method to make mild tea. It’s a matter of people’s preference. You can’t simply consider that fukamushi sencha is not good quality.
      Did I answered your question?

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    2. Here is what I mean. Regarding regular sencha and not deep steamed sencha... If the lower quality tea is still first flush, then what is happening to make the tea leaves lesser quality? This is what I don't understand. This would mean that even in first flush harvest, different farms have different quality of tea. So what is causing this difference in quality? I hope I'm more clear with my question this time.

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    3. I’m not sure but I can think of some reasons;
      Even for first flush, there is a timing of harvesting. If you harvest early, the leaves are small and soft. With late harvest, the leaves glow big. It’s going to be related to the amount of yield and the quality.
      Way of picking also affects to the quality of tea. If it is picked by hand or machine has some impact to the quality. The leaves near the tip of a blanch is softer. If you pick only two leaves from the tip, you can make good tea. If you pick five leaves from the tip, you can get a more amount but less quality. Geographic environment (Temperature, Sunshine duration, Soil) has a lot to do with the quality as well. I think that there are many factors to affect the quality even for the first flush.

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    4. Kohei, that was very interesting. Thank you.

      Do some farmer's pick more than two leaves from the tip to get a bigger yield with first flush?

      Also, what would be the advantage of picking first flush tea later in the harvest? Would there be more yield this way?

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    5. I believe that most farmers pick more than two leaves for average tea (4-5 leaves). Only for premium tea, the two-leaf picking is used.

      Yap, the advantage of late picking that I can think of is yield. But, I’m not sure. There might be some other reasons. You might not able to pick all of your fields in one day, and inevitably you might need a period for picking. Next time when I have a chance to talk to a farmer, I’ll ask about it.

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