Shopping for tea- tips on buying tea as gifts

by Jason Walker on November 30, 2009

in Uncategorized

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Look for a tea gift for yourself or someone else, and not sure how to pick a good tea? Here are a few pointers to start you down the road.

When comparing 2 teas like these Dragon Well green teas, how would you determine which is better?


Dragonwell B

Dragonwell B

Dragonwell A







1. Freshness. While some wulongs and pu’ers can actually improve with age, Chinese and Japanese greens begin to be harvested as early as April. Then the tea vendor stores them, sometimes in warm, humid wharehouses that can dull the flavor and color of the tea. Your best option is to buy teas closer to their harvest. In winter, fresher options include autumn darjeelings, tie guan yins, and more deeply oxidized (fermented) wulongs.

2. Origin. In general, teas grown in their traditional point of origin offer more characteristic flavors. As demand for tea increases, you’ll likely find more examples of Chinese mao feng (traditionally from Anhui province) grown in places like neighboring Hubei province. You can find some good to acceptable teas from outside origin, but if you’re new to tea, you may be better off starting with teas grown closer to their place of origin.

3. Color and aroma. Whenever you have the chance, look at and smell the dry leaf before you buy. Even if just for comparison shopping, you’ll want to create a mental catalogue of how green the green teas look, and how complex the aromas are. If you can, forego the “display” bowl- that stuff has probably been sitting out for days and has lost aroma. Stick your nose in the large lidded storage canister and take deep, rewarding whiffs.

4. Watch a few tea reviews. Hey, that’s what I made them for- they are your library of teas for comparison.

Anything I left off you want to add? Leave me a comment or question.

Happy holiday shopping.

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