Yesterday, I watched a super fun Instagram live with Rie and Steven from TeaCurious. Every week, they do these Instagram lives talking and experimenting with tea. The title of this week was, “How to Test Tea Samples.” I won’t give you too many spoilers, but you should definitely go check it out. I was so interested in the way they test out their teas however, as they use bowls and spoons! Rie gave awesome tips on how to look for the quality of the tea, and how this method would be pretty helpful for side-by-side tea comparisons.
I decided to try this method today and test out two dong ding oolongs. I acquired these samples recently, and I knew that one was a much better quality than the other sample. However, I had never done a side-by-side comparison and this was the perfect way to test it.
First, some information of both teas:
In order for the test to be fair, I followed Rie’s advice on how to make a fair comparison. My control group was:
- I used 2.5g of leaves
- I used the same bowls and spoon
- I used boiling water
- I poured in the same manner
Tea #1: The leaves were not exactly heavier than they looked, but I felt they were just right in how they should feel. The leaves were tightly rolled and very dark. I tried looking for oily leaves and some of them did have some shine to them.
When I poured the water, the leaves slowly unfurled, and it took the leaves several minutes until the leaves were fully open. The leaves were long and full, and there was minimal tea dust in the bowl.
Tea #2: As you can see by the pictures, it appear that there is much more of this tea than tea #1. This is because the tea was much lighter. It didn’t weight anything at all! The rolled leaves were very dry and different shapes as well. You could easily tell that the tea picking was very uneven. The color of the leaves were greener and lighter in color, making me think this could be an unroasted dong ding.
I think what surprised me the most was when I poured the water on these leaves. They unfurled SO QUICKLY. They were completely open in less than 15 seconds. The leaves were fairly broken and there was a lot of tea dust in the bowl.
Tea #1: Sweet and fruity. Since the leaves were slower to unfurl, it took this tea a bit longer for the taste to develop. It was very smooth and there was no astringency at all. It slightly numbed my tongue and left a creamy, stone fruit aftertaste in my mouth. The liquor was a warm yellow verging on orange.
Tea #2: The taste was immediate and strong. Similar to #1, the tea numbed my tongue. It was fresher, making me think this might not be roasted. It reminded me slightly of stone fruits as well, but the taste faded away pretty quickly. At first, there was no astringency, but with time, I started to feel it all over my mouth. It wasn’t so strong that it overpowered the tea but it was very present. The biggest BUT of this tea was the aftertaste. Unlike tea #1, there was a metallic and fishy aftertaste that was quite unpleasant.
I am so happy I tried this out! The differences between these teas were so outstanding to me, and I don’t think I would have ever been able to see the differences if I had brewed these samples in any other way. I loved seeing the leaves unfurl. I am used to seeing the life of the tea by taste, but never by eyesight and it was awesome to see. I also really enjoyed seeing how different teas can be. I always knew that tea #1 was better quality, but I only based this on taste. This was an awesome way to see the full picture. I also learned a lot about tea quality. Thanks to Rie, I learned about feeling the weight of the tea, seeing the oiliness of the leaves, and seeing if the tea became bitter to test for quality. I would honestly recommend this tea practice to anyone, it’s not only easy to do, but it teaches you a lot!!