Why do we grade tea?
The notion of judging and grading tea has a very long history. In the ancient tea cultures of China, Japan and other Asian countries, games were often played to compete on who can correctly judge the provenance of a tea served and/or which tea have the most outstanding characteristics.
[Photo: playing a game of Dou Cha - tea competition to judge which tea has the best quality during Tang dynasty period]
Despite the differences in taste preference across the world, we all share the same set of sensory stimulations when it comes to detection and tasting of a tea.
This enables tea tasters to establish a broad set of standard for the characteristics that a tea from particular region and cultivar should have when crafted properly.
[Photo: tea is often evaluated based on aroma, liquor colour, taste and wet leaf among others]
A clear and explicit standard not only allows tea tasters to seek out the grade of tea that he or she like to trade, it also has added benefit of promoting the improvement in craft and development of new cultivar.
An outstanding crafted tea in every season is much sort after and command a significantly higher price than the average.
This scarcity of supply means that tea craftsmen are incentivised to hone their tea making skills through local competitions (held regularly in tea growing regions of China, Taiwan, Japan and other Asian countries) and local market demand.
[Photo: craft can make or break every batch of leaf tea]
This positive feedback cycle is particularly beneficial to the tea making industry in the above mentioned Asian countries, where the tea crafting skills are much advanced than the rest of world, and often retain their local tea crafting traits without influences from other external forces.
The freshly pluck spring tea leaves are bit like the uncut gems... it is the passion and dedication of craftsmen that turn these gems into something invaluable..