I'm not talking about tea that has been intentionally cultivated for insect-bitten leaves.
I'm talking about pouring tea and seeing very small ants or what look like beetles on the bottom of the cup. I've noticed this with Chinese green teas (namely long jing and anji bai cha) from two different sources. The teas are about mid-range in price - some $30-45 per 100g. Bugs can be seen as often as about every 5th batch of tea that I brew in my gaiwan.
The question is: are the bugs a sign of poor quality? Do they most likely originate on the field, which could mean a low use of pesticides? Alternatively, have they found their way into the tea in storage, which would imply improper storage or cleaning?
Do you have pictures? My vote is for the improper storage conditions, and I would be rather worried. At the same time, you should be able to see the bugs in the tea leaves before you brew them, have you tried to sift through them to see how many bugs are in the leaves themselves?
Long Jing and Bai Cha usually come in fresh form. If they are meant to be kept, they must be in airtight containers. Long Jing don't age well due to its process but bai cha can aged well if stored in airtight container.
Bugs and more bugs???... if they appear in the form of silver fish chewing away old puer paper may still be understandable, but, to find them in Long Jing and Baicha...hmmmm...it may be wise to treat them as kaput.
In my system, country bugs are good, city bugs are bad. If they are country bugs, lure them out with honey and release them into a meadow. If they are city bugs, spray something at them and throw the mess away.
That's my learned advice.
edit: I however claim no real authority in this matter.
Thanks for your comments! It's good to know that consuming organisms of the animal kingdom is not a regular part of drinking tea. I really wouldn't have minded gulping down some "country bugs" that were introduced on the field.
Today I ran across two more ants, some small fly and a mite. I might upload a couple of photos soonish just for shock value. I'm most certainly going to drink it all, though, since the taste is not that bad.
I haven't been able to discover any insects in dry leaves. Water seems necessary to flush the bugs onto the bottom of the cup where they can be seen.
The leaves themselves appear fine, actually. However, the bai cha has some darkened areas near the tips of the (wet) leaves as well as where the stem has been cut. The long jing is machine-harvested, and some holes appear in the middle of the leaves - indicating insect bites.
It's a pity that the quality of the tea is what it is even when ordered from two reputable online vendors.