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Red Blossom Blog

Signs of Quality: Whole Leaf vs. Broken Leaf

Signs of Quality: Whole Leaf vs. Broken Leaf

There are only a few rules of quality that apply across all styles of tea, but one piece of advice that is commonly given to new tea drinkers is to look for whole leaves. In fact, we have given this piece of advice many times ourselves. When shopping for loose leaf teas with complex flavor, looking for intact leaves is one of our highest priorities. But some teas, like English Breakfast blends or matcha, are always crushed or powdered, even at the highest grades. What is the real benefit of brewing whole leaf teas, and can there be advantages to using broken leaves, as well?

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Types of Green Tea: Chinese vs. Japanese Crafting Styles

Types of Green Tea: Chinese vs. Japanese Crafting Styles

In the modern age, green tea has become one of the most popular styles of tea around the globe, thanks to modern shipping technology and heavily marketed health benefits. But among the common bottled, bagged, and flavored blends, it can be hard to discern the huge variety of natural flavors that result from terroir and crafting techniques. Though there are literally thousands of unique varieties and styles, one easy distinction to make when shopping for loose leaf green tea is between Chinese and Japanese styles.

Despite the fact that both tea traditions stem from the same early Chinese techniques of steaming and compressing green tea leaves, the two styles have diverged dramatically during the intervening millennia. Today, green teas from these two countries contrast in almost every way; from the growing process, to the methods used for crafting, all the way down to the way they’re brewed and served.

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Types of Flavored Tea: 3 Ways of Adding Flavors

Types of Flavored Tea: 3 Ways of Adding Flavors

Across the world, flavored teas are some of the most popular. Famous styles like Jasmine GreenMasala Chai, and Earl Grey are all made with a base of Camellia sinensis tea leaves and added flavor. Despite the occasional snobbery of purists, flavored styles come in a wide range of quality, from mass produced tea bags at the grocery store to whole leaves flavored with organic ingredients. To check the quality of flavored teas, it is important to ask how the extra flavors were added.

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Cakes vs. Loose Leaf: Types of Pu-erh Tea

Cakes vs. Loose Leaf: Types of Pu-erh Tea

Shopping for pu-erh can be confusing. With the added variables of age and fermentation, pu-erh is one of the most diverse categories of tea, and the growing popularity of the style only makes it easier to find bad examples. Since shopping for pu-erh can feel like a guessing game, it’s tempting to look for signs of quality in simple visual distinctions, like whether the tea is pressed into a cake or left in loose form. So what can we really tell about the tea from the way it is packaged?

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Where Does the Best White Tea Come From?

Where Does the Best White Tea Come From?

White teas have only gotten more and more popular with each year we’ve been in the tea business. Amid western marketing that promotes a wide range of health benefits and the modern affluence of Chinese connoisseurs, the demand for traditional white tea has skyrocketed, and continues to increase with each new harvest. As with most “famous” teas, this demand long ago outpaced the supply from the traditional farms that earned the famed reputation in the first place. Today, many white teas are grown outside the traditional region of Fuding County, Fujian, but purists consider these to be imitations, even if they're made with traditional crafting methods.

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Focus on the Finish: What is Hui Gan?

Focus on the Finish: What is Hui Gan?

In wine tasting, the ultimate test of quality is the lingering flavor that remains on the palate long after the tea has been swallowed. This characteristic is called the ‘finish’, and the longer its subtle complexities linger on the tongue, the better the quality of the wine.

The same concept is easily applied to tea - while many mediocre teas can present a pleasant taste on the front of the tongue, it is only those of truly high quality that leave a delightful lingering finish in the back of the throat. In Chinese, tea drinkers often call this quality the hui gan, or ‘returning sweetness’. But as with many other Chinese tea terms, the specific translation of this phrase is debatable. What does it taste like? Does every tea have it in varying degrees, or is it only found in certain tea types? How is it different from what we call the ‘finish’ in English?

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Is Monkey Picked Tea Really Picked By Monkeys?

Is Monkey Picked Tea Really Picked By Monkeys?

For drinkers of Chinese tea, the label “Monkey Picked” is a familiar one, typically applied to oolong teas made from the Tieguanyin variety in Anxi County, Fujian. Today, with the moniker applied to a vast range of teas within this style, it seems fairly obvious that it has taken on a poetic meaning, meant to imply information about the style and quality of the tea rather than offer factual information about the harvesting process. Certainly, tea farms in Anxi County don’t really depend on teams of monkeys to pluck their valuable leaves...do they?

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Which Green Teas Taste Best?

Which Green Teas Taste Best?

Thanks in part to highly lauded health benefits, the popularity of green tea has exploded worldwide. Backed by promises of weight loss, anti-aging capabilities, and the novelty of a natural bright green color, green tea has become a trending ingredient in everything from cookies and cakes to lattes and protein shakes. But few of these concoctions gives center stage to the green tea itself, instead blending (often powdered) leaves with fillers, sweeteners, or other strong flavors to mask the inherent bitterness of mass-produced teas.

Troubleshoot bitter tea flavors with these brewing tips >>

Unfortunately, the small quantities used for subtle green tea flavor are rarely enough to offer the promised benefits, and the quantity of butter and sugar in a green tea cookie will more than offset the metabolism-boosting effects of the powdered tea that makes it green. To get the most from any green tea, it must be a regular habit, drunk without added flavors or sweeteners. Luckily, this doesn't mean you have to choke down a bitter brew. Find green teas that taste good naturally by asking about these flavor factors:

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Black Tea Quality: 3 Basic Grades

Black Tea Quality: 3 Basic Grades

The worldwide popularity of black tea has made it one of the most diverse tea types, with huge range in both flavor and quality. While terroir and regional crafting styles create unique flavor profiles, each farm typically produces several different grades of their own specialty style. This can be confusing, since the terms used for each grade can vary between regions and tea types.

In India, Sri Lanka, and other tea industries founded by the British Empire, there is a complex system of abbreviations to describe the quality of any given tea. But these esoteric letter codes are often used inconsistently, and are not recognized by most Chinese tea producers. Instead of using these coded labels, it is easier to judge the quality of any given tea by looking at the leaves directly.

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