Over the years, we have often been asked about our process of sourcing of fine teas and determining the qualities that we are looking for. While flavor and aroma are important, they are secondary to less subjective qualities like body, mouthfeel and Qi. It is important to develop a sensitivity to these subtler qualities so that you can judge teas on their merit alone and not on the dubious word of many tea merchants out there. As our customers knows, we seek the best teas we can find, and here are some important criteria for determining those teas, passed on through the ages and arriving to us via our tea tradition. We hope they help you in your tea journey.
1. Fine teas immediately splash up to the upper palate. The best teas travel across the top of the mouth, moving upwards as soon as they enter our mouths.
2. Great teas travel to the back of the mouth naturally, without having to push them back. They transform through the five flavors smoothly and quickly: bitter, astringent, gan (minty freshness that returns on the breath), sour and sweet.
3. The tea is smooth in your mouth, feeling viscous and soft.
4. A nice tea also swallows naturally; you also need not push it down. Look for a pinch in the throat as a sure-fire sign of a lower quality tea or poor preparation.
5. Fine tea coasts the mouth. Anywhere you take your attention within your mouth, you will feel the tea.
6. Fine tea also coats the throat, leaving it warm, soft and comfortable.
7. The best teas cause salivation.
8. Fine teas have a very important feature that the Chinese call "hui gan." Gan is akin to the minty, cool feeling of peppermint or the air on a cold winter's day. The word "hui" means "remembrance," so this terms refers to the return of the gan on the breath. If you breathe out of your mouth after swallowing a fine tea, you'll find your breath is very comfortable, cool and refreshing.
9. Fine teas have a lingering fragrance that slowly rises up the back of the throat and into the nasal cavity. After drinking a fine tea, you sometimes get up and still find the aromatics in your nose.
10. Great teas have a deep Qi that relaxes you, slowly spreading to the whole body in various ways.