What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?


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What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby John Delaney » May 19th, '13, 21:20

I always laugh when I read the tea books that tell you that you should get good tea and then give you some empty suggestions on how to go about doing it. For example, the book I am reading now says you should buy from vendors that have clean dispensing containers and are knowledgeable about tea? However, I consider these types of things to be fairly obvious. So my question to you folks is what specific things do you look for when deciding to buy tea from a merchant or whether to determine if you got quality tea or not?
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby Joel Byron » May 19th, '13, 21:44

This is a pretty deep subject so it might be easier to help if you specified what kind of tea you might be looking for. For example, the tips that you would get for Japanese green tea would be totally different than the tips you would get for an aged puerh. As for determining whether you got good tea or not, that comes down to experience. You've got to try a lot of teas, and brewing technique can play a big part in whether you get the most out of a particular tea.
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby AdamMY » May 19th, '13, 22:04

Unless you happen to live in South East Asia, and are able to walk into a teashop and get free samples to take home and brew yourself to test out, you really need to go with reputation of the vendor. In fact the first person to try any online vendor is really taking a huge gamble, because photos can be altered to make even rather bad tea look nice.

In fact one of the biggest assests I find that the Teachat community is a whole is for the most part we are able to with ease communicate our experiences with vendors and their teas. While tastings are always personal, when you have enough teas that other have had, it is easy to learn I agree with the tastes of people X, Y, and Z, while I do not agree with the tastes of people U, V, and W. Then use that fact to decide which vendors they have tried that you have not tried that you might like.

So really the key is in an online world to find a pool of people whose tastes you agree with to share notes with. That way it is easy to "sample" new vendors without ever really sampling that many new vendors.
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby amaranto » May 19th, '13, 23:57

I like it when online tea vendors have detailed descriptions of the tea's flavor profile, origin, harvest method, and other relevant information explained in a straightforward manner. I tend to go by this more than by the pictures themselves, but that's just me—though I do look. I have also discovered vendors by reading people's reviews here on TeaChat, and I think a lot of what AdamMY says above is true.

After I find some tea that looks interesting, I try to order samples instead of buying a whole bunch at once, and I order as wide a range of samples as possible. Obviously, some places don't sell small samples, but then many of these places are lauded all over the forum, so it makes it feel safer to order, say, 50 g or so if the tea isn't too expensive and I'm very curious.

Another thing I've noticed is that some vendors have blogs filled with information that backs their credibility as being well-versed in the types of tea they sell. I sometimes find this helpful, too.
Last edited by amaranto on May 20th, '13, 10:08, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby Poohblah » May 20th, '13, 00:06

  • The vendor specializes in a certain kind of tea rather than selling a wide variety of teas from across the world;
  • The vendor is as close to the origin of the tea as possible;
  • The vendor offers samples at reasonable prices;
  • The vendor lists harvest locations and dates as specifically as possible;
  • The vendor does not hype their product with health claims and other dubious marketing schemes;
  • The vendor offers reasonable, specific brewing suggestions suited to the kind of tea they are selling (as opposed to unhelpful, unspecific generalizations like "brew oolong tea at 190 degrees for 3 minutes");
  • The vendor has a good reputation on this board (most important; there is a lot of collective experience and wisdom here).
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby teaisme » May 20th, '13, 15:11

teachat has been good for expanding horizons with online vendor recommendations/opinions, as well as making online tea friends

make some tea friends who live close by too.

brewing tea for others often unintentionally opens new doors for me. Share as much as you can (think this could be applied to life in general) :mrgreen:
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby 茶藝-TeaArt08 » May 20th, '13, 21:00

Poohblah wrote:
  • The vendor specializes in a certain kind of tea rather than selling a wide variety of teas from across the world;
  • The vendor is as close to the origin of the tea as possible;
  • The vendor offers samples at reasonable prices;
  • The vendor lists harvest locations and dates as specifically as possible;
  • The vendor does not hype their product with health claims and other dubious marketing schemes;
  • The vendor offers reasonable, specific brewing suggestions suited to the kind of tea they are selling (as opposed to unhelpful, unspecific generalizations like "brew oolong tea at 190 degrees for 3 minutes");
  • The vendor has a good reputation on this board (most important; there is a lot of collective experience and wisdom here).


Nice list! I'd add in, for me, that the vendor personally undertakes to travel to the various tea destinations/farms to source their tea directly, choosing the farmers and tea makers they trust and are not buying, if possible, from a middle man. Though there are certainly reputable and knowledgeable middle men. Generalizing, I mostly drink Chinese and Taiwanese teas; in Taiwan and China (“guan1xi1關係“) good relationship is everything and a tea seller with the right relationships can get the best of a crop in low yield years, etc.

Due to family and a cultural connection. We travel to Taiwan each year for a month to six weeks and buy most our teas for the year then, which can still be fraught with difficulty (due to unreputable vendors mixing some lower grade leaves into their batches (this was discussed often at 秋山堂 gong fu teahouse and even identified a few times) or some Taiwan vendors have moved their farms out of Taiwan (to Thailand, etc.) but claim the tea to be Taiwan high mountain tea “台灣高山烏龍茶” . I often rely on the recommendations of my tea teacher in Taiwan. Because he is the head tea teacher (茶藝老師) for ChunShuiTang (春水堂) and QiuShanTang(秋山堂)gong fu tea house he has solid relationships to tea farms/producers/trends, etc., as well as good relationships with teaware (茶具)artisans.
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby Poohblah » May 20th, '13, 22:17

chayi, that is what I mean by "The vendor is as close to the origin of the tea as possible."
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby 茶藝-TeaArt08 » May 21st, '13, 00:12

Poohblah wrote:chayi, that is what I mean by "The vendor is as close to the origin of the tea as possible."


Thank you for the clarification. :D I was unsure if you meant by 'close', for example, that a vendor of Taiwanese tea should merely be located in Taiwan (origin) or is, besides being located in Taiwan, also deeply connected to specific farmers, etc. through healthy, time-developed, personal relationships and undertakes personally to visit, seasonally, the supply/source.

I did in Taiwan meet some extremely reputable sellers whom were previously producers/wholesalers whom had gotten out of production and wholesale and moved into just selling tea that I trusted them very much because their relationships to the source were old and time-honored: One in particular has wonderful aged wulong teas.
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby sherubtse » May 21st, '13, 08:32

Poohblah wrote:[list][*]The vendor specializes in a certain kind of tea rather than selling a wide variety of teas from across the world;


Not necesarily.

Several vendors come to mind who do not specialise, yet sell teas of good (or very good) quality.

I am thinking in particular of Tea Trekker & Camellia Sinensis.

Best wishes,
sherubtse
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby Poohblah » May 21st, '13, 11:24

sherubtse wrote:
Poohblah wrote:[list][*]The vendor specializes in a certain kind of tea rather than selling a wide variety of teas from across the world;


Not necesarily.

Several vendors come to mind who do not specialise, yet sell teas of good (or very good) quality.

I am thinking in particular of Tea Trekker & Camellia Sinensis.

Best wishes,
sherubtse
I would debate you on your examples. But first I would have to buy some teas from CS. ;)

But OP asked for "tips", not "rules," so I gave some "tips" rather than laws of nature ;)
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby sherubtse » May 21st, '13, 12:16

Poohblah wrote:
sherubtse wrote:
Poohblah wrote:[list][*]The vendor specializes in a certain kind of tea rather than selling a wide variety of teas from across the world;


Not necesarily.

Several vendors come to mind who do not specialise, yet sell teas of good (or very good) quality.

I am thinking in particular of Tea Trekker & Camellia Sinensis.

Best wishes,
sherubtse
I would debate you on your examples. But first I would have to buy some teas from CS. ;)

But OP asked for "tips", not "rules," so I gave some "tips" rather than laws of nature ;)


Understood, and agreed! :)

Best wishes,
sherubtse
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Re: What Tips Do You Use In Finding Good Tea?

Postby gasninja » May 23rd, '13, 11:13

I have never bought from Camelia Seninsis. But I have noticed that they buy there teas from others more specialized vendors such as sun sing for there puerh. That may be why they can keep up there quality in a broad spectrum of teas.
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