How to judge quality


The two-second test: Puncture a tea bag and place the contents of this next to a quality tea. With a tea bag tea, you will see a mixture of textures, colours and leaf sizes (mainly dust particles). You might even find some foreign particles such as stems and hair.

Compare that to evenly coloured, similar sized leaves that have a fresh aroma of quality tea.

The five-minute test: Brew the two types of tea and you will see a good tea leaf opens up and produces a nice vibrant colour brew where as the tea dust simply turns into mush and produces a dead coloured brew. Generally tea bags have a small amount of good quality tea to produce an acceptable colour and taste.

What the connoisseurs look for…

Consistent size and colour of leaf – Take a handful of tea leaves and see if they are all a consistent size and colour. Poor quality black tea consists of a multitude of leaf colours and sizes of leaves which is the result of blending a lot of cheap tea with a bit of good tea – tear open a tea bag to see what poor quality tea looks like.

The heavier a handful of leaves is, the better the quality.

Smell – put your nose right above a handful of leaves and breathe slowly but deeply. The quality teas usually have a very nice, fresh aroma and are not stale or odorless.


Colour of brew
After pouring boiling water onto the tea leaves and letting it sit for 3 – 5 minutes, observe the colour of the tea in a white cup.

  • Quality teas have a vibrant, glowing colour where the stronger teas have a deep colour compared to the lighter teas.
  • Poor quality teas tend to have a dead colour.

Infusions – appearance

Have a look at the leaves that have just been brewed. 

  • Quality tea leaves will open up beautifully and become quite large. Also the colour should be consistent and vibrant.
  • Low quality tea tends to open up inconsistently, especially if it is just tea dust or tea refuge.

Taste – The final act
To taste the tea properly, suck the tea in from the cup and try to make as much noise as possible – this squirts the tea to all parts of your tongue’s taste buds, allowing the full flavour to be revealed.

Taste is, however, subjective therefore what is quality to your taste buds may not be the case to someone else.

* Generally, people who drink a lot of tea tend to like a nice strong cup. The stronger teas tend to come from lower elevation (about 1000 feet) tea estates.