|What to Look For
When Buying Loose Leaf Teas
|With so many teas available today, the problem becomes choosing what you want to buy.
I always advise buying small amounts of any new tea. Some companies even offer small
sample packets so you can do a taste test on several different teas inexpensively.
New advances in technology such as vacuum packaging, and air freight, have given us access
to a cornucopia of teas we didn't have a decade ago. We now can sample from teas pro-
duced in small batches, from small, local tea farmers, from some of the best tea producing
countries in the world, such as China, Japan, and India, delivered fresh to our doorstep.
So don't be afraid to try new teas often, or you'll be missing out on so many delightful, flavor-
ful, and healthy teas that are now available to us. As always, Enjoy.
|Cleanliness - Next to Godliness
|For more information or to learn more about tea, visit our other pages:
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the taste buds.
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smoke infused, black tea.
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convenience, all in one.
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Flavored teas - everyone has a favorite!
What is Fair Trade and how does it work?
Organic teas aren't just good for you, but Mother Earth, too.
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|For years buying tea meant grabbing a box of Lipton black tea bags from the
shelf of your local supermarket.
But today it's a different story. We have nearly unlimited choice of not only
loose leaf teas, but a variety of styles and flavors of bagged tea as well, all
available from specialty tea shops, online tea sellers, and by mail order.
|Unfortunately with the myriad of choices, comes
the dilemma of what to buy and how to know
what you're getting is good, fresh, quality tea.
Although there's no surefire 100% guarantee, I
have a few tips and suggestions on what to do
and look for, both in person and online, or by mail
order, to help you get the best teas possible.
One of the first things you should do before sett-
ing out, is to familiarize yourself with the types of
tea you're interested in buying.
Get an idea of what the
tea should look like. Is it
round, shaped like a small
pellet, like Gunpowder tea,
|one of China's oldest tumble dried green teas? Or are you searching for
Bai Hao Yin Zhen or Silver Needle, one of China's white teas, that gets its
name because it is covered with soft silvery hairs and rolled needle thin.
You may also want to check on what the tea's growing cycles are, for ex-
ample, is it a spring or fall harvested tea. You also shouldn't see stems
or debris in the tea, (with the exception of kukicha tea) and the
leaves should all be of a similar size and shape.
Smaller pieces of leaf brew faster than larger, so all tea leaves
should be of a uniform size and quality.
Another step you might want to take before heading out, is to
research the average price of the teas you're planning to buy. Go
online and compare several different sources, and you should be able to get a good average
ballpark price, for the same size and type of tea you're shopping for.
|If shopping in person, take note of the clean-
liness, assortment, and staff. Are you greet-
ed with a smile, and does the staff seem eag-
er to help you? At first glance, is the store
clean and does the merchandise pop, or does
it look tired, and dusty?
Is there a smaller assortment of well tended
teas...or a huge assortment of musty looking
packages that look as though they've seen
better days? A large assortment of teas in
which to choose from is nice, but if it's not
turning over and current and selling well, with
steady buyers, it's just a big waste for every-
And, while we're on the topic of freshness, as
a rule of thumb, proprietary brands - tea bought in bulk by independent tea merchants and
packaged under their name in tins, foil sacks, and tie bags, is generally fresher than branded
teas, packaged by the big tea companies.
Now, moving on to mail order and online tea merchants. One of
the first things you should do is to check out their catalog or
website. Is the information easy to understand and are the
prices clearly marked? Or, is their catalog or website a cluttered
mess, filled with marketing lingo and self-promotion and hype,
rather than useful information about their products?
Whenever I order online or by mail order, I like to call and talk to a "live"
person the first time ordering. You can learn a lot about a company by talk-
ing to them in person.
First off, is the staff friendly and seem genuinely interested in helping you,
rather than just pushing for a sale? Secondly, they should be able to an-
swer any questions you have and be knowledgeable about all their products
(I usually ask a few general questions I already know the answer to, just as
a little test).
But you should feel free to ask about anything and get a clear
answer. Ask about the growing cycles and when a new crop of
fresh tea will be available. If you don't understand the grading
terms, or markings on tins and packaging, ask about it. You've
heard the saying - the only stupid question is the one not asked.
Another useful way to check out an online tea vendor, is by reading their customer testimonials.
If they have plenty of positive customer testimonials backing up the products and seller, chances
are they're a good choice. Testimonials are given voluntarily, so if someone takes the time to
praise a product or seller, it's pretty safe to say you can trust that.
And conversely, if a tea seller has few or no testimonials, well, that kind of speaks for itself, too,
don't you think? (Unless, of course, they're a brand new company).
|For a great selection of quality teas, gifts, and
The Tea Detective's Gift of Tea Store