On Taste and Quality

One very interesting conversation around tea is about taste and quality. Not the taste of tea, mind you, but your own personal taste as in, your preference.

At Darvaza Teas, we advocate drinking good tea… obviously! But we each have our own definition of Good, don’t we? Because tea is so personal, and since it is often the medium to a privileged moment with ourselves, we tend to define Good Tea as “tea that makes me feel good”. And, well, that’s a perfectly valid definition. But that is a definition of our taste.

Quality, however, exists outside of our subjective judgment, and it is equally fair to define what constitutes quality in tea.

So what is taste, and what is quality? This is potentially a very long topic, so in this article we will only explore a few aspects. Take it as an introduction and food for thought!

Darvaza Teas | Explore: On Taste and Quality

Tea Bag or Loose Leaves?

Obviously, our preferred way of savouring our tea is when we can see it, touch it, smell it… This being said, it is possible to drink good teas in tea bags, but one needs to pay attention.

In principle, packaging has nothing to do with quality: why would drinking from a tea bag be inferior to drinking loose leaf teas? Unfortunately, it’s often the case because the bags are filled with inferior tea, with crushed leaves and tea dust (… on purpose).

This can become a very long and passionate discussion, so keep an eye on the Vaadaa section because we will make our case with a dedicated article very soon!

Flavoured or Pure?

Flavoured tea contain other ingredients than tea, such as flowers or petals of flowers, essential oils, citrus fruit peel, spices etc. Pure teas owe their taste only to themselves, from where they were grown to how they were processed.

This one is mostly a matter of taste rather than of quality. We have nothing against flavoured tea, as can be witness by our lovely floral Himalayan Rose Tea. And sometimes we just love the subtle simplicity of a pure tea like our Hand-Rolled Himalayan Oolong.

Like any good recipe, when each ingredient respects and elevates the other(s) then the resulting tea can be wonderful and unforgettable. And like any bad recipe, too much of a good thing can ruin the result.

Blends or Single Origin?

Again, this is a matter of personal taste and not of quality. With fine teas one can create a fine blend, and with bad teas...

Blended teas are a mix of different teas, often grown in very different regions. They were created with the same philosophy as flavoured teas, to create something new that gathers the characteristics of different individual teas. The quintessential example is the English Breakfast tea, which is usually a mix of Assam (for the strength), Ceylon (for the aroma) and Kenyan (for the body).

In contrast, single origin tea is akin to single malt whisky (albeit without the alcohol!). It comes from one specific plantation and was never in contact with neither a tea from another plantation, nor another type of tea from the same plantation. Singling out a tea as coming from a particular place tends to be a sign of quality, and it is the way that plantations can establish their reputation.

Darvaza Teas| Explore: On Taste and Quality Tea Picker in a Field

Organic or Not?

Buying organic has more to do with conscious shopping and consuming products that do not involve chemicals that can be harmful to the environment or the body. As far as tea is concerned, neither the taste nor the quality is directly involved. In fact, whether a tea is organic or not is often irrelevant to whether it is good (taste) or good (quality).

More and more plantations around the world are getting an organic accreditation, but that is mostly because they recognize the marketing argument. Well managed plantations producing high quality teas are usually at least organic by design, because the land will respond better if it is managed responsibly and respectfully. After all, tea is a long term endeavour. You can read more about our position towards organic tea in this article.

Fair Trade or Not?

Neither the taste of the tea nor its quality has anything to do with the fact that the tea may (or may not) carry a Fair Trade stamp. Fair Trade refers to the way the tea is traded from hand to hand to ensure a certain level of revenue to the producing countries. Nothing else.

There is a lot to say about Fair Trade that we explored in other articles. Here suffice to say that quality, taste and fair trading are entirely uncorrelated. As for us, we find that it is often another marketing argument, and essentially one that doesn’t apply to fine artisan teas.


(photos by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash and Sandeep Silas for Darvaza Teas)

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