Once we asked the manager of a large Chinese tea factory how to distinguish real tea from a fake. Mr. Yang Ming ironically noted that there can be no counterfeits in tea: tea is always tea. Indeed, anything made from the Camellia Sinensis plant is tea. The quality of tea is the main issue.
In this article, we will tell you how to figure out the tricks of unscrupulous manufacturers and choose the best tea.
How dishonest manufacturers and sellers can deceive you
Tea falsification is the sale of low-quality or low-quality tea under the guise of quality. How it works?
- Selling inexpensive tea under the guise of expensive. For example, inexpensive Georgian tea, which is sold under the guise of Indian or Ceylon. Or ordinary tea of average quality, which is called elite tea with tips (tips are tea buds).
- Mixing cheaper or non-tea products into tea: crushed petioles (twigs), dried leaves of non-tea trees, tea crumbs.
— Sale of sleeping tea. Only inveterate villains who have no place in a pure and light tea culture can do this.
— Addition of dyes and flavor enhancers. This type of falsification is usually used to sell expired tea.
The sale of sleeping tea and the addition of dyes are, fortunately, a rarity. Information fraud happens all the time. How to detect untruth? Guided by our advice, evaluate the appearance of dry, brewed tea and packaging.
dry tea leaf
- A solid, neat sheet is the most important feature. The sheet may be broken, it may be twisted into different shapes, but it must always be solid, with even edges.
- Uniform, uniform leaf color , which corresponds to the grade of tea. Green tea is a green leaf color (bright to dark green) and a light, silvery bud color. Black tea leaves can be either dark brown or black; tea buds are always golden.
- The size and shape of the leaf can be different: a whole large leaf from the bottom of the shoot, a whole small leaf from the top of the shoot (these are elite teas), the leaf can be broken, granulated (STS), crushed into dust. It is important that in one package all the leaves are the same size. And no extraneous inclusions: petioles, broken leaves or leaves of a different color or size.
Humidity is a very important indicator of quality. Between 3 and 7 percent moisture is normal. If stored improperly, tea easily absorbs moisture from the outside. It's prone to mold! Tea that has absorbed excess moisture can be dried again. To check if the tea has been overdried or re-dried, rub the leaf in your hands. If the leaf is brittle and crumbles, the tea is not suitable.
- The smell of dry tea leaves is always soft, unsharp, pleasant. Any unpleasant odors - mold, fumes, dust, iron - signal poor quality. Only flavored tea has a very strong aroma. It's not bad or harmful, it's a matter of taste.
- When brewing good black tea, abundant foam appears on the surface. Large-leaf teas are an exception; often even the highest quality teas do not have foam.
- The color of the infusion is always transparent and corresponds to the type of tea : from yellow to green - for green teas, from light amber to dark brown - for black teas.
- The taste of tea is always soft, unsharp, multifaceted. Green tea is bitter for two reasons: poor quality or incorrect water temperature (correct - up to 85 ° C, Japanese teas - up to 75 ° C).
- The aroma of pure tea is light, but persistent. It persists for a long time. Flavored tea, on the other hand, smells strong when dry, but quickly loses flavor after brewing.
— Dyes in tea are rare. Suspicions are easy to check : pour tea with cold water. If the water immediately turns colored, there are dyes in the tea. Natural tea releases oils in cold water for a very long time - from 2-3 to 9 hours.
Tea leaf after brewing
- Tea brewing helps to determine the quality of tea much more correctly than a dry leaf. Here all the flaws are immediately visible: foreign inclusions (petioles, dust), uneven shape, structure and density.
- The aroma of tea leaves should be pleasant , bright and match the type of tea.
In the largest tea countries, tea production is regulated by the state. China, India, Ceylon - each country has unique quality marks. The quality mark guarantees the origin and compliance with sanitary standards, but does not guarantee the high quality of raw materials. The quality of a tea leaf can only be determined by inspection and tasting - we wrote about this above.
Q and S logo (Quality Safety)
The QS certification system includes a large list of parameters. The QS number is unique and can be used to identify the manufacturer. QS certification is passed by most food manufacturers in China.
You will never see the usual inscription Made in China on real Chinese tea. Usually, the name of the only official exporter is indicated on the packages - China National Tea & Native Product Import & Export Corp.
Picture of a girl with a basket of tea
The Tea Authority of India oversees the certification of all growers and traders. The main task of the Office is to reduce the number of fakes and protect the reputation of the industry. The quality mark guarantees the originality and origin of the tea. In addition to or instead of the quality mark, tea region origin identifiers are often affixed to packages. There are eight of them in India, the main and most popular in Ukraine and the world are Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri.
Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
Image of a lion with a sword
The quality mark of the State Tea Administration of the Republic of Sri Lanka guarantees: tea is grown and packaged on a plantation that has passed state certification and meets sanitary standards.
- Shelf life of tea - 3 years from the date of collection. The exception is Puerh tea. This is a post-fermented tea for which age is an advantage.
– Tea can be packaged directly at the place of collection or in the country of sale. It is important that the manufacturer and importer comply with the storage rules - in this case, the place of packaging does not matter.
Tea bags are the most popular tea in the world. For this reason, and also because the packaging hides the contents, it is this type of tea that most often suffers from falsification.
- Often small broken leaves, granulated tea and tea dust are packed in bags . Open the bag and inspect the contents: dust is the lowest quality raw material. Granular tea is the most popular raw material for Indian and Ceylon tea bags. The best option is a small broken sheet.
- Small colored balls in bags - this is a low-quality flavoring. A good synthetic flavor is sprayed onto the tea at the last stage of production.
- You can determine if there are dyes in the bag in the same way as in leaf teas: pour cold water over it. If the water turns color immediately, there are dyes in the bag.
Now you know how to choose the right, tasty, healthy tea.