Did you know there is a tea house in Beijing, China that is so well known for scamming tourists out of thousands of dollars that it is called "The Beijing Tea House Scam"? Sometimes, there's just nothing you can do to prevent an unfortunate situation, but I am convinced that the more you learn about tea, the better your tea experiences will be.
In this post, I share 4 tea descriptions that will help you identify good tea as well as fraudulent tea so that you can have more authentic and personalized tea experiences.
WHY SO IMPORTANT?
Why is it even important for you to identify simple tea descriptions when purchasing your tea? Well, tea descriptions, like wine descriptions, usually appear on the tea tin or package itself. However, if you do not understand what you are looking at, it can seem like you're reading Latin. How are you supposed to sip what and how you want if you don't understand what you're actually purchasing?
Once you can recognize these 4 main ways that tea is described: type, proper name, region, and plantation, you will be able to identify teas more readily, avoid purchasing fraudulent or over-priced tea, and create personalized tea experiences.
A tea type is a classification of tea. Tea types simply reveal what kind of tea you have. Tea types are, but not limited to: white, yellow, green, black.
The type is the most common description and probably the description you search for when purchasing your tea. Each tea type has a different taste and effect, so if you are familiar with the tea types, you will be able to personalize your tea to your taste buds and avoid purchasing teas that you already know you may not like.
A proper name is a title given to a tea by its tea company. Some proper tea names have been around for years upon years (such as Silver Needle or Earl Grey) making them recognizable. Other tea names are just whims of tea company's imaginations. It's impossible to know all the proper names that exist and also impractical, but, it is important to know this: Just because a tea's description has a proper name that you may be familiar with, doesn't mean that the tea itself reflects this name.
It is common for tea companies to try to fool tea sippers with proper names that indicate a particular tea experience. For example, recently during a Tea Review: Subscriber's Edition I reviewed a tea called French Breakfast by Golden Moon Tea. Inside the tea tin, there was Ceylon black tea and that's it! Not a French Breakfast blend at all!
Being able to identify a proper name and cross reference it with the ingredients of the tea and a little research will prevent you from having fraudulent/inauthentic tea experiences and will ensure you are sipping a tea that you actually want.
A region is a particular area or district in which a tea is grown. A tea that is grown in a certain region can be given its name (similar to the way that wine is described). Pu'er tea, for example, is named after the Pu'er region in Yunnan. Darjeeling is named after the Darjeeling district in India. If you become familiar with regions you can also familiarize yourself with the terroirs associated with that region; A super fun experience!
Recognizing when a tea has been described by a region can also be helpful in identifying fraudulent teas. Some tea companies claim that their tea comes from a particular region even though the tea was grown elsewhere. A lot of times, the tea's proper name will include or allude to a region leading the tea sipper to believe that the tea was grown in that particular region. Not cool!
NOTE: There is quite a bit of controversy within the tea community regarding region specific tea descriptions. Some believe that teas not not have to be grown in a particular region to bear its name. For example, some tea enthusiast believe that a Pu'er green tea does not need to come from Pu'er, Yunnan in order to be called Pu'er as long as the tea is cultivated and processed like a Pu'er.
I, however, believe in just plain-old common sense. Tea descriptions should avoid referencing regions that the tea itself was not grown in to avoid confusion. Period.
A plantation is a tea farm where tea is grown. Plantation names date back centuries and can be quite popular as Chateau Roubine is to wine. Some tea plantations offer amazing retreats with adventurous packages and stunning views of tea, tea, and more tea! Teas are seldom described by their tea plantations but when they are mentioned you sort of want to know where they are located as this can give you an idea of the tea's terroir.
FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH TEA DESCRIPTIONS
I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about these 4 tea descriptions. Familiarizing yourself with how tea is described will help you make your tea experience unique and your own! You will also avoid purchasing fraudulent teas resulting in an inauthentic tea experience. In my experience, the more you learn about tea, the better your sipping experience; so why not begin with tea descriptions!
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