We tout the benefits of drinking loose leaf tea over bagged quite a bit here at Discover Teas. However, even among loose leaf, there are different standards and quality levels. Not all loose tea is the same! Finding a loose leaf to drink doesn’t always equate to high quality tea in the cup.
Some examples of quality variance show up in processing, leaf appearance, and flavoring. Take our Jasmine Dragon Tears for example. They are prepared in the historically traditional, hand crafted manner, layered seven times with fresh jasmine buds; which make these pearls one of our premium teas at $32 for two ounces. You can order jasmine pearls online, go into the local mall and get some, pay a lot less elsewhere. If you taste them side by side with ours, if jasmine is your thing, there’s no question in my mind which one to opt for.
Just looking at the loose leaf will tell you a lot about its journey. An over dried leaf can show dullness in color, lack of aroma can indicate being stale, too much stem and variance in leaf size can point to poor crop picking or sorting, not getting the most coveted part of the plant. Of course there are exceptions depending on the variety of tea.
Decaffeinated teas are also big ones that are easy to distinguish quality. The few decaffeinated tea options we carry (not talking herbal here, but actual tea leaves) are naturally processed with CO2, instead of with chemical washing. The process uses high pressure and temperature to extract caffeine and leave the nuances of the tea intact. It’s a more labor intensive process which brings a higher price tag, but you’re saving yourself the formaldehyde preserving factor of the alternative. The result is definitely a healthier cup, but also no strange aftertaste normally found with chemical processing.
Flavored teas have an even wider range of quality. Just because a tea looks colorfully fruited and smells delectable, it doesn’t necessarily translate to a good tasting cup, especially when artificial flavoring methods are used. Synthetic chemicals, mold cultures, preservatives, and just plain filler to add weight are used to allure a buyer with a pretty picture and smell. Some companies even add sweeteners to their teas to try to enhance the flavors. For those drinking tea for health reasons, that kind of defeats the purpose.
I believe if you start with a natural high quality loose tea, there’s no need for all the additives and artificial flavoring. A great tea will taste great naturally. We take pride in the quality of all of our teas at Discover Teas, along with the fact that all of our flavored teas and herbals are all natural. No weird chemicals, no synthetics. If it’s a fruit flavored tea, it has that fruit; if it’s a floral tea, it has that floral essence; if it’s spiced, it’s the real thing.
Someone just came into the shop asking for a pound of Decaf English Breakfast, scoffed at the price I quoted, “What?! I can get it for $14!”, and scurried out. I really need to chuckle and be grateful. That served as a timely reminder that I’ve been meaning to write up a blog on this subject for some time now. You may be able to find teas cheaper, but they aren’t always worth it. The saying “you get what you pay for” comes to mind. Once you get a taste of pure high quality, you know. That’s one of the reasons our customers come back again and again. They trust we will deliver on fresh, splendid loose teas. And of course, all of our teas have that something extra—love.