New to teachat, have a lot of questions


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New to teachat, have a lot of questions

Postby Aleksei » Mar 9th, '11, 03:29

Hi guys,

I am new to the loose leave tea world. When I was younger, my mother would drink Ahmand Ceylon tea or tea bagged herbal infusions. In October however, I started working at Teavana while attending university and have expanded my pallet. I will reserve my opinions about the company until I can find a job relating more to my major (i'll need a lot of luck in this recession) but I will say I share many feelings that I have read, both positive and negative, on this board. When the time comes to leave Teavana, there will be an essay similar in length to one other post I've read here, but right now, I am naive to what is quality and what is not from teas to teaware so I have a lot of questions that I will post here as I remember them and hopefully out of all the members here, I will get them all answered!!
Thanks in advance to all of those who do answer them!!!

1. I read up on Gyokuro and Matcha, and I must say it is my favorite green tea so far. But, the Matcha can that Teavana sells says it is Imperial grade and I was not able to find anything on grades of matcha anywhere. So, is their Matcha the best, Or are there better Matchas than this one? I ask because I would like to try a better one if it exists because it is absolutely delicious.
2.Teavana claims to get the top 5% of each tea crop, but I haven't been able to verify this, and if it is true, then does that mean that competitors will have a lower quality of the same kind of tea every time?
3. I really like silver needle, Silver Yin Zen pearls, Huangshan Mao Feng, Earl Grey white, Black dragon pearl, Golden Jade, Dragonwell, Jasmine green pearls, jasmine Oolong, Thousand mountain Jasmine black tea, Six summits oolong, zingiber ginger coconut Roobios, My morning Mate, Dokudami Umami herbal, Phoenix Mountain Dang Cong that Teavana has. While I have seen cheaper prices of some of the teas I mentioned, I wonder about the quality. Sure its easy to say buy some from this company, but consider that I am working there because all other jobs available to college students are saturated. So instead, I would invite people to comment on the quality of the teas i mentioned in comparison to other vender's teas of the same kind; of course if they are available elsewhere.
4. Also, tetsubin or yixing or Tokoname? When I'm selling,it is pretty much expected to stress tetsubin because of the ceramic coating and even heat disribution, and of course the price, but in my opinion, Yixing seem so much better because of unique design and absorption properties, and they don't get so damn hot!, what do you guys think?
5. The Korean Celadon is no longer sold, which I thought were beautiful just to have to display, unlike those judith weber pots...just don't like them sorry..what about actually using Celadon for tea, is it just like porcelain in terms of function?
6. The steeping instructions differ for the same type of tea, for example Gyokuro, at teavana than on other websites, which is the best? I currently use 175 degrees for 30-45 sec.
7. Whats the best white teas? what about the blooming teas that have flowers in them? there are four available at Teavana, are there better ones in terms of quality out there, and if so, where are the best ones?

I'm sure I'll think of more and that these answers may be scattered throughout this board but I would like everything in one place if possible.
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Re: New to teachat, have a lot of questions

Postby Aleksei » Mar 9th, '11, 03:36

8. whats the difference between Somayaki and korean celadon.
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Re: New to teachat, have a lot of questions

Postby iannon » Mar 9th, '11, 04:00

Welcome ;)
Oh where to start..ok..#1!
1. Yes there is much better..much much much better. Try anything from O-Cha or Maiko or Ippodo or Zencha etc etc etc. I have actually had the Teavana stuff a whiole back as it was in the area and I figured I would try it. the Gyo was completely underwhelming compared to most of the true Japanese Vendors.
2. No way no now nuh uh nope..You will find much higher quality Tea's elsewhere.
3.Cannot comment on all of these..the Dan Cong I tried once and was pleasantly drinkable..not great. The Dragonwell..eh..ok..again fairly flat.
4.Tetsubin's are nice to look at..Id like to have a real UNLINED tetsubin kettle for boiling my water but not for steeping tea..most of the ones they sell are way too big and stay way too hot. Not great for japanese greens. Tokoname i use all the time for japanese greens. For oolongs and Pu I currently use a small porecelain pot ..Gaiwan would be better.
5.I dunno..havent aquired a celadon yet but would like to.
6.Quality Gyo's are usually going to want cooler temps for a bit longer times.
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Re: New to teachat, have a lot of questions

Postby tortoise » Mar 9th, '11, 11:47

"Top 5% of every new crop..."

It will not take you long to realize that is a complete crock.

If you are ordering Japanese teas, anyone of the vendors listed by iannon above are terrific.
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Re: New to teachat, have a lot of questions

Postby Chip » Mar 10th, '11, 12:05

Welcome to TeaChat! As you may be realizing by now, it is best to ask specific questions in the appropriate forums where they will get more attention and receive more answers.

With that, I look forward to seeing you on the forum. :mrgreen:
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Re: New to teachat, have a lot of questions

Postby hopeofdawn » Mar 10th, '11, 12:30

I'm by far from a tea expert, but just to put my two cents worth in on some of your questions:

Aleksei wrote:1. ... the Matcha can that Teavana sells says it is Imperial grade and I was not able to find anything on grades of matcha anywhere. So, is their Matcha the best, Or are there better Matchas than this one?.


I'm reasonably sure that 'imperial grade' matcha is just a made up marketing term by Teavana. I've never run across it before in any of my shopping/reading about Japanese teas. If you want the absolute highest quality matcha you can get (and are willing to pay the premium for it), I would look for matcha that has won awards in Japan, and/or is sold for tea ceremony use. That seems to be the highest quality, as a general rule. But like all tea, one vendor or one grower will not always have the absolute 'best' tea--it really varies from year to year and crop to crop. Not to mention your own personal tastes!

Aleksei wrote:2.Teavana claims to get the top 5% of each tea crop, but I haven't been able to verify this, and if it is true, then does that mean that competitors will have a lower quality of the same kind of tea every time?


The only way I could see this being even close to true is if they meant the top 5% of big production-farm tea--and even then I would have doubts. Generally speaking, really high quality tea tends to be sourced from smaller farmers with smaller yields, not the huge plantation tea farms that Lipton/Bigelow/etc. use. And given that a lot of competitions/high grade tea rarely makes it out of their country of origin ... I would definitely be skeptical about this claim. If anything, in my (albeit limited) experience smaller, dedicated tea shops have *better* tea than Teavana--esp if you're lucky enough to find one where they make buying trips to China/Taiwan/Japan to taste/pick out their tea personally.

Aleksei wrote:3. I really like silver needle, Silver Yin Zen pearls, Huangshan Mao Feng, Earl Grey white, Black dragon pearl, Golden Jade, Dragonwell, Jasmine green pearls, jasmine Oolong, Thousand mountain Jasmine black tea, Six summits oolong, zingiber ginger coconut Roobios, My morning Mate, Dokudami Umami herbal, Phoenix Mountain Dang Cong that Teavana has ... instead, I would invite people to comment on the quality of the teas i mentioned in comparison to other vender's teas of the same kind; of course if they are available elsewhere.


All the teas you mentioned can be found elsewhere, though not necessarily under the same names. (And the blends, like ginger coconut Rooibus, may not be exactly the same.)

Honestly, the best way to develop your palate and learn the difference between teas, is to find a tea shop (or a well-stocked fellow tea lover!) who is willing to do tea tastings. That way you can sit down with three-four different oolongs, brewed by someone who knows what they're doing, and taste them side by side--then you can really start noticing the subtle differences, and learn what quality tea tastes like. Same applies for greens, white tea, Taiwanese, etc .... My local tea shop does this; I knew *nothing* about good/bad tea until I wandered in there and found myself tasting one tea after another!

Aleksei wrote:4. Also, tetsubin or yixing or Tokoname?


Given your current status as a poor college student, I would go with 'cheap'. :D I don't own a tetsubin, but everything I've read on this board seems to indicate that they're a) way overpriced at Teavana and b) not really suited to brewing anything other than maybe black tea, because they stay too hot. You don't want to stew your green or oolong tea--that's a surefire way to make good tea taste horrible. :) Yixing and tokoname both have their strengths, but unless you're willing to dedicate certain ware for certain teas, I'd really recommend an all-purpose porcelain pot or gaiwan instead. (I guess I'd make a horrible Teavana salesperson!)

Aleksei wrote:5. what about actually using Celadon for tea, is it just like porcelain in terms of function?


To the best of my knowledge, celadon ware doesn't affect the taste of your tea--it's a non-porous glaze. It just looks pretty. (which is probably why I am constantly tempted to buy more... :P)

Aleksei wrote:6. The steeping instructions differ for the same type of tea, for example Gyokuro, at teavana than on other websites, which is the best? I currently use 175 degrees for 30-45 sec.


It's been my experience that most commercial tea vendor instructions have you brewing tea way too long. Of course, I think they're also assuming you're brewing western-style--a small amount of tea in a really big pot. But if you're only brewing a cup or two at a time, or doing gongfu/semi-gongfu style, the best rule of thumb I've heard is to brew for only 10 sec per 4 oz of water. And after that--research and experiment! There are lots of great threads here about brewing temps, etc for different teas ... it really is an art.

Aleksei wrote:7. Whats the best white teas? what about the blooming teas that have flowers in them? there are four available at Teavana, are there better ones in terms of quality out there, and if so, where are the best ones?


Don't know much about white teas, except that it's hard to go wrong with most silver needle. For blooming teas--again, my opinion, but it seems like blooming teas focus more on appearance over taste. For instance, I've never found a jasmine green blooming tea that was higher quality than a top-notch regular jasmine green tea. Again, though, I think this all depends on experimentation and your personal tastes. Which is probably a good rule for almost everything I've said here. :)
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Re: New to teachat, have a lot of questions

Postby rabbit » Mar 10th, '11, 12:52

1. Nobody can claim to have "the best" matcha, no matter what grade, taste will tell, and though I don't drink matcha very often I'd have to agree that imperial grade sounds like a made up marketing term. Fortunately for you this forum has a lot of Japanese tea lovers who will steer you in the right direction.

4. IMO I'd just get (and learn how to properly use) a gaiwan, they are very versatile, they can be used for most teas, and are easy to clean. Just keep in mind that the more you get into tea the smaller your teaware will likely become.

6. Most large retailers don't have the best instructions for correctly making tea, they need to simplify and generalize a little bit, there is plenty of info on these forums on how to properly steep each type of tea, and of course you'll need to tweak it for personal preferance.
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