|WHAT IS A GOOD JAPANESE GREEN TEA? |
Japanese green tea is enjoyed for its 'umami' from the amino acids present in the tea leaves. A good quality Japanese green tea will be a tea made from tea leaves of the first harvest in Spring. Tea leaves of first harvest has the highest content of amino acids and the leaves are at their tenderest, resulting in a tea with fine pin-shaped leaves of lustrous profound green color.
|APPRAISAL BY SHAPE|
Sencha made from very young tender tea leaves which are very tightly rolled, resembling that of fine pins used in sewing, with consistency in shape and size is considered good quality Sencha. On the contrary, Sencha made from coarser matured leaves which are not tightly rolled (coarse matured leaves are too hard for rolling) and have inconsistent shapes and sizes is considered as a lower quality Sencha.
|APPRAISAL BY COLOR|
The color of tea leaves is one of the factors used for judging the quality of the tea. A good quality Japanese green tea will have tea leaves with a lively profound green color with shine and lustre. As tea leaves mature, the leaves become coarser. Japanese green tea made from coarser matured tea leaves will have tea leaves of duller green color that lacks shine and lustre.
|APPRAISAL BY THE FEEL OF TEA LEAVES |
Imagine holding 100g of cotton wool and 100g of metal. Although both are of the same weight, metal feels heavier than cotton wool because of the feel of the mass weight. Similarly, the feel of a premium grade Sencha feels heavier than Bancha of the same weight. This is because a premium grade Sencha has leaves which are tightly rolled while the leaves of Bancha are unrolled and feels feathery. As such, tea made from tightly rolled tea leaves are considered as good quality tea.
|APPRAISAL BY TASTING|
Tea tasting is perhaps the most direct way of judging the quality of tea. Tea companies use the cupping test to find out the quality of the tea based on the aroma, umami, bitterness and astringency. This is performed by using high temperature boiling hot water over tea leaves and leaving the leaves to steep for about 20 seconds. High temperature water draws out all the strengths and shortcomings of the tea. The more shortcomings are felt, the lower is the quality of the tea. Cupping tests are used by tea companies to fix the price of the tea and to decide how they will process the tea. For the individual, doing cupping tests is not relevant as the purpose of buying tea is for drinking. Hence, it is more relevant for the individual to choose the tea that suits his or her personal likings by brewing the tea with the recommended water temperature stated on the packaging.