How to Tell Good Tea vs. Bad Tea

A lot of people ask me how to tell "good tea" from "bad tea".

Personally, I think all tea is good if you like it! We all have different tastes, and sometimes even a cheap tea bag brings good memories, and who's to say that's bad?

But living in China for eight years and hanging out at the tea market taught me a few things to look for when identifying a good tea. There are rules of thumb to make sure you've got the good stuff.

I put three tips into a video on tiktok last week, and it blew up! We're over 750K views on this video in only a week or so:



Answer to @peckerwrecker69 3 tips for good tea! ##tea ##teatok ##jessesteahouse ##chinese ##asian ##traditional ##culture ##relax ##chill ##gongfutea ##gongfucha

♬ Lofi - Domknowz


Tip 1: Drink Full Leaf Tea

If the tea has been powderized before you drink it, it has already lost a lot of its flavor and fragrance. The tea flavor lives inside the plant cells, so the more that break, the more flavor you lose.

Whole leaf tea could be loose leaf, or pressed into cakes or balls, or even in bags. Sometimes you can't tell for sure what's in the packaging, but when you can, get the whole leaf tea.

Tip 2: Smell the Fragrance

Good teas smell amazing! The smell of the first steep is a good indicator on how high quality the tea is. If it's flat or absent, the tea might be less good. If it's bright and full, that's good news -- and good tea!

Protip: Smell the lid of your tea-making vessel -- gaiwan, pot, etc. -- after the first steep. That will give you the pure tea fragrance without having to lean over a steaming cup.

Tip 3: Check the Tea Color 

Tea Color should be both colorful and transparent. If your tea is muddy, it could be low quality leaves, or it could be that you're steeping it too long.

There are some exceptions -- teas that have natural hairs on them might be cloudy -- but in general, the color should be bright and transparent.

Also, apparently once steeped, the tea is technically called "Tea Liquor" but every time I use that word I feel like I am so far gone from reality that I hate myself. So I just call it "the tea."

Most importantly: if you like it, it's good tea! There are many tea traditions in the world and all have value.

I always advise people to try many different teas to see what they like -- that's why I made my sampler box with four different types so you can try before you buy larger boxes of one type.

Have you tried my teas? What did you think? Let me know!

-- Jesse 杰西

Leave a comment