How do I choose the right tea?
There’s no easy answer to this question. Perhaps except for finding an experienced source you can trust and whose teas never disappoint. As you are now on our website, everything seems to have turned out well and you are encouraged to start shopping.
Let’s have a look at that question anyway. It depends on what you are looking for in a tea.
• What are your taste preferences? What are you going to combine it with? What did you eat or drink before the cup of tea, what do you intend to have while drinking it and what comes next?
• Do you want tea to provide you a wake-up call instead of coffee or to relax and calm you down?
• And last but not least, what is your budget − how much do you want to invest in your tea and what is your ideal cost-benefit ratio?
Selecting tea based on taste
You should like the taste of your tea. That’s why you drink it. The selection of tea fragrances and tastes is so wide that it should satisfy everyone.
There is a complex cocktail of substances in tea leaves that are further transformed − some emerge while other disappear. As a result, you can discover an unbelievable range of flavours and aromas in your cup. There are two cornerstones, so to speak. Bitterness and sweetness. Bitterness is an integral part of tea. Tea leaves are simply bitter. It is given by the content of basic substances contained in them. Bitterness protects tea against pests. Sweetness emerges as a result of reactions that occur during processing. A well performed processing results in a deliciously sweet cup. The brew is a combination of both the tastes. Today, sweet taste is generally preferred while bitterness is often suppressed to the minimum. The whole range of tastes in tea brew is much richer than that.
The tea you take from your cupboard depends on your mood at the time, but also on the sense in your mouth, on what you have eaten and what you are going to eat next. Have you just had a rich, spicy lunch? You’ll probably pick a strong, rather bitter tea − a red Yunnan, green Vietnam or dark pu-erh. If you are about to enjoy Asian cuisine, fish or sushi, Japanese green tea is the choice. Second flush Darjeeling goes well with your grandma’s cookies and Assam and Earl Grey are great with a piece of cake. We drink a different tea as the first thing in the morning and after a heavy meal. There’s a morning tea and an afternoon tea. Everyone prefers different combinations, which is why it’s so difficult to set out rules. One must not be afraid to experiment with different combinations.
The effects − tea as a substitute for coffee
People often visit us because they want tea to substitute the large amounts of coffee they drink. Now, it’s good to know that the cocktail of substances you find in a cup of tea is somewhat different to what you’ve known from coffee. Both the beverages contain caffeine, but its effects on the human organism are always different. Coffee kicks in faster and more intensively, but its effect is shorter. On the other hand, effects of tea are less conspicuous, they unfold more slowly and their effects are lasting longer. It takes some time to get used to both the options.
If you expect a wakeup call from tea, you better choose one consisting of young tips picked early in the spring. They contain the most active substances, with caffeine taking the lead. It’s because caffeine is bitter and protects the plant from pests that cannot wait for the juicy and otherwise very tasty leaves. You can tell young leaves by fine hairs. The fine silver or gold fluff serves no other purpose than preventing small insects from accessing the young leaves. Don’t be surprised about the price − teas made from these tiny young leaves are much more expensive than large-leaf teas. It’s because you need up to ten times as many of them.
However, tea leaves don’t contain only stimulants. There are also substances that reduce the effects of caffeine or work as relaxants. The effects of different teas are still somehow mysterious. There is a myriad of factors that influence the content of different substances in a brew, some of them unpredictable and hard to influence. The effects of tea are often very subjective. What made you alert yesterday can relax you today.
A typical tea that has relaxing effects due to a high content of the gama-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is Gaba Oolong from Taiwan. We also recommend teas with a lower content of caffeine, such as Kukicha, Houjicha and Genmaicha from Japan. On the other hand, spring teas from Darjeeling, Gyokuro and Matcha produced in Japan and Yunnan pu-erh from younger trees provide a good wakeup call.
Cost-benefit ratio − tea budget
There’s a parallel with the world of wine. We recommend starting with basic types of tea, learn to appreciate them and only then venture into the world of top (meaning expensive) teas. Because there’s no way back. Or better, there is − one can go back to cheaper teas, but it is often a painful experience. Of course, this is a bit of an overstatement. There are plenty of great teas at reasonable prices.
In many teas, price and quality are directly proportionate, in others they are not. A typical example of disproportionate increase of price is pu-erh. It’s been some time that the prices of old mature teas have been rising, which is understandable because they are scarce. However, the prices of the basic material for the production of pu-erh type of teas − maocha − have sky-rocketed, too. Among the reasons is a disproportion between offer and demand. The rise is caused by the combination of great demand associated with the rising popularity of teas from Darjeeling combined with rather limited (and recently decreasing) yearly tea production. Unfortunately, this is the reality we have to adapt to. We can invest, purchase large amounts of pu-erh and wait for its price to rise even more. We can scout for Nepalese teas as an alternative to Darjeeling tea.
Luckily, even a pot of the most expensive tea that makes several brews over which you can spend a whole afternoon, still costs tens of cents or Euros. Tea is not an expensive hobby.