Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality


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Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby spandexninja » Dec 15th, '11, 21:59

Other than taste, what determines how high the quality of green tea leaves are? (aka, how can I tell)

In what way do the higher quality leaves taste better (in tea) than lower quality leaves?
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby Chip » Dec 15th, '11, 22:05

Leaf quality in appearance does not guarantee better taste. Leaves can look amazing but fail in the taste (&/or freshness) category compared to much less attractive and lower quality leaves.

Often a vendor will sell a so called high quality tea based upon leaf appearance only. Be aware and beware!

So, more precisely ask about a high quality tea versus high quality leaves.

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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby iannon » Dec 15th, '11, 22:14

+1 to what Chip said..other than taste its close to impossible to know. Checking out the faves of the tea drinkers here here is a good way to gain some insight and out you on the right path for sure!
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby Oni » Dec 17th, '11, 03:12

I eat one leaf raw, it should have an intense pleasant aroma, of the type of tea that it comes from, some advanced tea drinkers can tell if it is organic or not, when I tried a high quality green tea a few years ago, I eat the raw leaf dry and I taste a strong but clean umame and the taste of the tea.
I suggest brewing the tea the right way (I mean not overbrew) and taste it, it must be to your liking, look for texture, a tea should be pleasant to the throat, it should not be dry, it should be buttery and aromatic, I think the aroma receptor in the nose is the most important organ in tasting tea, there are teas that leave a recurring aftertaste, with each breath you take and exhale on the nose you should feel the flowery aroma of the tea, few green teas have this capability, it is a trait more likely for an oolong, but with Lu An Gua Pian, Tai Ping hou kui, and a few others you can have this sensation.
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby joelbct » Dec 31st, '11, 17:55

Oni wrote:some advanced tea drinkers can tell if it is organic or not


I'm sure this has been touched on elsewhere, but usually for whatever reasons the best tea's are not certified organic.

Different theories abound for why this is so. I have noticed some better tasting batches with an organic label lately, so there may be a trend towards organic at the high-end, but the rule still seems that most organic tea is mediocre. Although I guess you could say most tea in general is mediocre, or most everything on earth is mediocre (hehe), but in any case, the best tea still seems to be conventionally grown.

As one example, Dragon Well/Long Jing, the mouthwatering best of the best that I have come across had has not been organic, but I've had plenty of mediocre organic batches. Same with sencha.

Personally, I like to buy organic food where I can, but tea I usually focus on taste... would be nice if more is organic, but i'm not going to avoid the best tea because it isn't certified.
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby Tead Off » Jan 2nd, '12, 23:12

joelbct wrote: so there may be a trend towards organic at the high-end, but the rule still seems that most organic tea is mediocre. Although I guess you could say most tea in general is mediocre, or most everything on earth is mediocre (hehe), but in any case, the best tea still seems to be conventionally grown.

This is NOT TRUE of most teas grown all over the world. There may be organic growing that is lacking in the cultivation of some teas (some say gyokuro) but this is probably due to the fact that most of the growers don't farm organically and have not developed the product sufficiently. So many great organic teas from every tea producing country including Japan. Plus there are other factors besides organically grown that go into making a tea tasty. Location, climate, skill of processing. Many farms churn out stuff like a factory.

Maybe a truer statement would be there is not as much organic tea as conventionally grown tea in Japan for sale. I'm sure the % is quite low for organic tea so that reduces the amount of 'great' organic teas to harder to find. Personally, I'm very happy drinking organic Japanese teas.
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby Chip » Jan 2nd, '12, 23:36

Let me first say this. I tell people not to really be in the habit of comparing conventionally grown to organic grown Japanese teas especially ... on an apple to apple basis. It just does not pan out well this way.

In recent history ... organic teas from Japan have paled in comparison to their conventionally grown counterparts.

It is only very recently that it seems Japan seems compelled to produce very good organic. I suspect a lot of this has to do with supply and demand. (I wonder if the increased popularity in Japanese teas in the Western world has provided more incentive to produce more and better organics)

I personally suspect the number one factor creating this apples to oranges comparison is the use of fertilizer. Thus the extreme example of Gyokuro which is very heavily fertilized, conventionally grown gyo is far superior in richness and taste compared to organic gyos I have sampled. It is simply very hard to provide the level of nutrients required to produce a flavor profile comparable to conventionally fertilized.

Sencha is typically fertilized far less, thus the differences seem to me to be less acute, though I still do not believe they are going to be the same.

Regardless, there is room for both in this world ... and of course, like what you drink, drink what you like.
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby verus » Jan 12th, '12, 16:54

spandexninja wrote:Other than taste, what determines how high the quality of green tea leaves are? (aka, how can I tell)


If you take away the taste, you're left with tasteless tea. :shock:

In the end, taste is what decides the quality. There's several ways for different teas to achieve good tea taste, such as fertile ground or the quality of the "terroir", the right tea varietal, the proper time to pluck the tea leaves, the processing of the tea after harvesting...the wilting, drying, oxidation, firing, or steaming of the tea.

Some qualities that are important for some types of tea are less relevant for others, for instance with Chinese and Indian tea it's often a rule of thumb that the best tea is made from intact leaves, whereas that doesn't have to be the case with Japanese tea, where even a high quality tea can be made from broken leaf.
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby zeto » Jan 27th, '12, 21:32

Also one has to consider what goes into the definition of 'organic.' First, it's just a certification from an organization charging a fee. Second, just because something isn't labeled organic doesn't mean it's not organic by a reasonable standard. Some growing processes can cause a grower to lose official organic status, but increase the quality of their goods without any detriment to an individual... and in some other cases organic farming techniques are not suitable to sustain the land itself.

I think that unless growers are slathering on the pesticides and whatnot... in general non-organics will be better than their organic counterparts, since the growers are not as restricted in reasonable means of manipulating crops that might just barely disqualify them (or they just choose not to pay the fee to get certified and are organic anyway.)
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby teaisme » Jan 30th, '12, 18:36

zeto wrote:in general non-organics will be better than their organic counterparts


I really don't think so based on the teas I have tried (gyokoro and super heavy umami sencha/kabusencha perhaps being an instance of when I have found this true). Of course I am talking about organic in general (not just certified, because often the certified are less good then the non certified organics, due to scale of operations etc).

verus wrote:In the end, taste is what decides the quality

Conventionally grown can be bursting with taste and really upfront flavours, along with good hui gan, but the body and texture are weak/strange, feels less balanced when drinking, does not go down nice and easy, no silence after the second cup, and sup par 'feelings' after the session is over. Taiwanese oolongs are a perfect example of this imo since the conventional is everywhere and the non certified organic hmt is not too hard to find.
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby AlexZorach » Feb 6th, '12, 14:22

I've found that you need to be familiar with the particular type of tea you're buying to really judge the quality just by looking at or smelling the dry leaf. Usually, a fresh, strong, pleasing smell is a pretty good indicator of high quality tea, but absence of a strong aroma doesn't necessarily mean it's low quality.

For example, I recently tried some Hunan green teas from Imperial Tea Garden, and the leaf looked beautiful, but they didn't have much smell. Upon brewing, they were fantastic.

In general, though, I've found that if you know the style, and it looks grayer or browner than it normally is, it's probably going to taste pretty awful. I've particularly found that with dragon well, gunpowder, and chun mee. I know what these styles look like...when I've had one that just looks lifeless, it usually comes out pretty lifeless when I brew it.
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby armin » Mar 3rd, '12, 23:43

zeto wrote:... and in some other cases organic farming techniques are not suitable to sustain the land itself.


Well, it was for the last few thousands of years...
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 5th, '12, 11:25

I've tasted quite a few great teas that used traditional (organic) fertilizer (such as goat droppings and bean cakes). They have a soupy texture that can be hardly found in tea without similar kind of fertilizer. But none of these teas is *certified* organic. The goat dropping (probably the best fertilizer for TGY) can't pass organic certification unless it's sterilized. You can't really expect a Chinese farmer to sterilize feces. It will sound ridiculous to him. It sounds ridiculous even to me, who've sterilized a lot of things in a science lab. :mrgreen:

But organic cultivation doesn't mean lazy cultivation. Giving up synthesized fertilizer shouldn't mean cutting corners on fertilizers. There are organic teas that I tasted and suspect they are just lacking of fertilization. I also suspect a lot of industrially produced organic fertilizers are not comparable to goat droppings (but there is always potential of progress in this aspect). I believe in goat droppings :wink:
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 5th, '12, 11:32

spandexninja wrote:Other than taste, what determines how high the quality of green tea leaves are? (aka, how can I tell)

In what way do the higher quality leaves taste better (in tea) than lower quality leaves?


Well, I would be perfectly happy if I love a tea that's considered lower quality by other people and hence sold for lower price :mrgreen:
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Re: Green tea - High Quality vs. Low Quality

Postby Teacup1980 » Mar 20th, '12, 21:03

zeto wrote:Also one has to consider what goes into the definition of 'organic.' First, it's just a certification from an organization charging a fee. Second, just because something isn't labeled organic doesn't mean it's not organic by a reasonable standard.


I really agree.
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