Three traits of a good craft tea
What makes a good tea? Before it was industrialised and turned into commodity tea bags, tea mostly originated from single estates and was carefully hand-rolled by a tea master.
Fortunately, the century old culture and craftsmanship remains to this day, albeit only in select regions of the world.
Today, we see three common traits that define a good craft tea.
1. Tea cultivar
The cultivar defines the unique aroma and taste profile of a tea. Each cultivar is selectively bred for its desirable characteristics.
Over the last few hundred years, tea producers in Asia (China and Japan in particular) have been experimenting with tea cultivars, creating a plethora of cultivars with each maintaining and/or improving on its precursors.
Benefiting from this great diversity and variety, teas from this region attract more tea connoisseurs than any other part of the world.
Terroir is the natural habitat where teas are grown; and it plays a crucial role in the final taste of the tea.
This concept is analogous with other crop based drinks such as wine and whiskey. At the granular level, teas grown on one mountain hill will differ in taste from another one grown in the neighbouring village. Even with the same cultivar.
The significance of terroir is such that, from our customers we see an ever growing attention to the tea's point of origin.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked elements is craft.
Both cultivar and terroir create desirable characteristics inside a leaf, and craftsmanship unlocks those innate natural characteristics.
Good craftsmanship not only teases out the natural aromas and tastes, it enhances them through multiple steps in the crafting process. In fact, regular competitions are frequently organised in tea growing regions to identify; and nurture talented craftspeople at a local and regional level.
So, a well crafted tea is about the balance between nature and craftsmanship - an accidental relationship discovered centuries ago, and one that continues to evolve.