A sample of a new gunpowder tea arrived for us to evaluate, and it only seemed fitting to have that tea go side by side with a couple of others we had on hand. Sometimes that’s the best way to tell the true quality (or lack thereof) of a tea.
During the past almost six years now I’ve learned a lot about tea (but in no way would call myself an expert). And one lesson is that you can tell the quality from a photo… or can you? There was quite a difference in the dry tea between the three tested. The sample I was sent (on the left in the photo below) had “pellets” (tightly rolled leaves) that were larger and lighter colored than the other two. At first I thought this was a bad sign but hubby and I soldiered on (we gave Little Yellow Teapot the night off for that weekly card game with the rest of the Tea Gang). The key is to use water heated to about 160-170°F and steep about 2-3 minutes (a slightly longer time is good for those pellets to open).
The big surprise was that the sample pellets opened more fully than the others. Whether this would mean a bitter flavor or something overly strong we were eager to find out. But first a look at the liquid in the cups (in the same order as the dry teas above).
Not sure if you can tell, but each one had little bits of tea leaf matter in them. The sample (#1) was a little lighter in color. #3 had the smallest leaf bits. Time to taste. Sip……slurp…… hmmm…… #1 was smooth, not bitter, very pleasant for a gunpowder style green tea (which are usually meant to be a daily drinking tea and therefore not considered top quality). #2 was thin, watery, a bit edgy, definitely bitter, and a bit dirty tasting. #3 (the most expensive of the three) was only marginally better than #2 and not nearly as good as that sample (#1). I’m sure their price will be the best of the lot, also.
It pays to compare!
Disclaimer: some items were furnished by the vendor but all opinions expressed here are totally unbiased.
© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text