What are the best loose leaf teas?
Are you on a mission to discover the world’s best loose leaf teas? These teas are generally from countries famous for tea. We all know of India and China but there is Japan too and many tea producing countries in the Far East and East Africa. So what are the world’s best teas?
In the UK we love fairly strong teas, often with milk. Assam teas from India are well-known for their maltiness and good body. Assam is to the north of India, alongside the Burmese border. The tea grown there is indigenous to the area, being larger leafed and more strongly flavoured than the Chinese variant.
Areas renown for the quality of their teas
India also produces Darjeeling, grown high in the Himalayan foothills. These teas are delicate with a characteristic muscatel character. They are based upon the smaller leafed Chinese variant of the tea bush.
These are certainly two of the world’s best teas. However, within these growing areas are the individual tea estates or gardens as they are known. Some have a great reputation for consistently producing great teas year after year. Assam Harmutty or Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope are just two examples.
China is of course considered by most to be the home of tea and they do indeed have very many teas to choose from and a formidable reputation for the best teas in the world. They do not designate particular tea gardens but instead their teas are known for the small area in which they are grown and the strict methods by which they are made. Many of these teas have a huge history and accompanying legends have arisen.
Ceylon teas, produced in what is now known as Sri Lanka, are celebrated by many for their contribution to the world’s best teas. They are known for their floral character and good depth of flavour. Areas such as Dimbula, Uva and Nuwara Eliya are seen as the very best for the flavour of their teas.
China’s famous or tribute teas
Since the Tang dynasty China has developed teas which have been claimed exclusively by the emperors and have therefore adopted a mystical status. These Tribute Teas have in the past been accepted as payment of tax. They were often then passed on to court officials who then consumed or sold them. When Imperial China ended in 1912 these remarkable teas continued their elevated status as Famous Teas. We stock all ten of these teas and they can certainly be described as amongst the very best of the world’s teas. These include green teas which China mainly drinks such as Huang Shan Mao Feng and An Lu Gua Pian; black teas such as Keemun and Da Hong Pao to oolongs such as Tie Guan Yin and white teas such as Biahao Yinzhen.
Tea made its way to Japan, brought by a Buddhist monk in 1191. Over its long association with tea Japan has developed its own distinctive tea culture and its own teas which are recognised as being amongst the best in the world. These extend from sencha to matcha and are renown for being steamed rather than oven fired; the latter being the basis of the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
The best grades of tea
Beyond origin and method of manufacture, the best loose leaf teas are often large leaf grades. These infuse more slowly as they have a smaller surface area compared with their volume but this ensures a more balanced cup – allowing all the tea’s flavour components to properly infuse into the liquor. Smaller leaf grades tend to brew quickly and if allowed to infuse longer result, in black teas, in excessive and unattractively high levels of tannin to be released and excessive leave bitterness in green teas.
The best blends of tea will have the best constituent teas to bring out the distinctive qualities of each without use of cheaper, blander teas to bulk-out the blend.
If you haven’t already, we hope you will enjoy embarking upon an exploration of the world’s best teas!
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