I recently attended an event where, for the first time, I learned about comparing tea bags. I’d done loose leaf tastings before, but, of course, there were some obvious differences.
We did comparisons across several brands of similar price and market (grocery store shelf teas). It is important to compare apples to apples for a fair comparison. We first compared the teas visually, before steeping and comparing tastes.
For the visual comparison, take two or more tea bags of the same variety but different brands. If the tea bags are individually wrapped, tear off the top as you normally would, but do not yet take the bag out.
Take a deep whiff and take note of the differences in the aromas of the dried leaves, the strength, and the nuances of the scent. Then, remove the bags and examine inside the wrapper. A good quality tea bag should not leave much dust behind in the bag.
After you have looked at the dust in the bag, tear open the tea bags themselves and compare. You are looking for larger leaves. In the case of flavored teas, there should be no prills, or flavor crystals. The scent may come from essential oils, or from ingredients that you can see.
At this point, we used new tea bags for our taste comparison. The leaves in tea bags may be too fine to use with any kind of infuser. When you are comparing teas, you have two options for steeping. The water for all of the teas should be the same temperature. We followed the same steeping time across brands, but it would be interesting to do a second comparison following the steeping times recommended by each manufacturer.
Once you have prepared the tea, the steps are the same as for loose leaf tea. Look at the color and quality of the liquor. Color of course changes depending on variety, but there should be no film on top of the tea. Inhale the aroma. Then slurp it across your tongue, allowing the flavor to fill your mouth. Taste all of the teas at least twice to get a good comparison.
Above all, enjoy the process!
Stephanie’s blog is a great place to get a good dose of the tea scoop!