How to choose and buy the best teas

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Tea has been gaining more and more space on the market shelves. Through the streets of Brazil – mainly in the Center, Southeast and South – they are opening more and more shops and tea houses, or confectioneries with a focus on tea, not coffee. How to choose the best teas amid so much supply? How to distinguish the quality of products?
The big tip is: use the five senses.
Watch. Note the shape of the sheets and their size. The more whole the leaves are, the better the quality of the tea. Analyze whether the leaves are broken or whole. “But how do you see the leaves in a tea bag?” Better not buy what you can’t see, here’s the tip. When you buy tea in bulk, you can look much better. Not to mention that the quality of bulk teas is vastly better than that of sachet teas.
Many factors influence the quality of the tea, from soil pH, altitude, temperature, planting and harvesting methods. In addition to these factors, the main difference between sachet teas and bulk teas is the method of manufacture. For the production of tea in bulk, the orthodox method is used. Amid the long tea production process, the leaves are rolled or flattened – both to shape and to extract the maximum flavor from the leaves. Tea bag tea is produced in a much simpler and faster way (which is excellent for large tea companies), the CTC method (cut, loom, curl): the leaves are cut, smashed and rolled (read more here). In this process, a lot of flavor, aroma and quality is lost.
To be clearer, look at the photo below. Both pots have Ceylon tea leaves. The bottom tea was prepared using the CTC method (used in sachet teas), and the top tea, using the orthodox method (bulk teas).
Some imported brands offer better quality tea bags. They are those pyramidal bags, in which you can see the tea leaves inside, whole – not crushed.
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After looking at the leaves, smell it to identify the quality of the tea. Flower planted in the garden, or freshly harvested with care is full of aroma and life. An old, withered flower has almost no smell. The fresher the tea is, the more aroma it has.
Many tea shops and stores have a small sample pot of tea, so customers can see the leaves and smell them. It is always good to shake the pot a little, so that the aroma is released. A very good tip is to start train the sense of smell to distinguish natural aroma from synthetic aroma. Many brands use flavoring. The flavoring, besides being a chemical product, does not bring any benefit. Have a pure tea or a blend produced with herbs, flowers and dehydrated fruits has natural and true aromas, and has many beneficial health properties.
Taste the tea to find out if the flavor matches the aroma. The fresher the tea, the more flavor and aroma it has. In Asia and some tea shops in Europe, teas are separated not only by type or name, but also by the season of the year in which they are harvested: spring, summer and autumn. Each season of the year gives tea a distinctive flavor.
During the months that I was in China, I discovered that the Chinese don’t drink old tea. Old, for them, it’s tea from last year. Okay, it’s always easy to drink fresh tea, from the last season, in one of the countries with the largest and best tea production in the world. Now, think of your shelf with that collection of teas you’ve kept for five years. Indeed, most of them have already lost much of their flavor and aroma.
Tasting teas can always be surprising because the sensation perceived by smell is different from the sensation of taste. I will give an example explaining the tasting of one of my blends from Caminho do Chá http://caminhodocha.com.br/, my brand of handmade blends and tea house in Curitiba. Kingston is prepared with dark tea from the Lahu tribe (which I visited in Thailand), dark tea from China, bananas and allspice. In the aroma of dry leaves, you predominantly feel bananas. The sense of smell is slightly bristled with the aroma of the pepper. In the aroma of tea liqueur, you can feel the aroma of earth and bananas, which goes very well.
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In tasting, the characteristic of each ingredient is perceived differently. At first, the flavor of dark tea is much more prevalent and stronger than the flavor of bananas. Dark tea, which is fermented, has a very strong earth character. For a few seconds, this is the only flavor you can taste. Suddenly, the taste of dark tea takes place in the background, and bananas appear. On the palate is that sweet banana candy (our fruits are bought fresh and dehydrated by our team), accompanied by the characteristic bitterness of dark tea. A few seconds later, you think: “And the Jamaica pepper, where is it?” Before you can find an answer, it appears in your throat. Yes, why spices always appear in the throat. The game continues when you make the second infusion, which is sweeter and less earthy than the first. To taste is to live! <3
The surprise of tasting may not be so pleasant when you drink a flavored product. Often, the aroma is so strong that on the palate it has almost no taste. But in the West, many people like products with flavoring. In the East, don’t you dare offer anyone a flavored tea. Laughs! But taste is not discussed. It is only important to take into account that the more natural a product is, the better it does for health. ☺
To help you choose your ideal tea, it is also very important identify what type of tea you like best. The options are many and for all tastes and types of people. Who likes teas softer will be happy with a white tea, green tea or green oolong (not smoked). Who likes teas stronger will be enchanted with smoked oolongs and black teas. Those who need more energy or who like coffee will identify themselves with pure and intense black teas, like an Assam, from India, or with dark teas, like Pu-Erh. Anyone who wants to relax or balance their health (for the cause, not for the symptom), can delight in infusions of herbs, flowers, fruits and roots.
All the senses can be explored to improve your tasting. Nothing like coming home at the end of the day, sitting on the couch or on the balcony, putting on some good music and having a nice cup of tea. Just by feeling the aroma of the tea and holding the warm cup of tea, we relax. With each sip, a feeling of tranquility and peace.
Sharpen your senses and always choose the best teas!
Enjoy your tea time!
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