Sunday, March 4, 2012

Five Common Misconceptions about Chinese Tea Purchasing

The first flush tea of 2012 will come to the market soon in early April. More and more people will begin to source the teas to replenish the stock. Here, we listed five common misconceptions we concluded when people buying Chinese teas in recent years. Read them, you may become more experienced and better prepared in tea purchasing in 2012.

Misconception #1 Expensive teas are definitely better than the cheaper ones.

Here, we don't just mean it for the teas sold by different vendors because it is obvious that it is not so under the circumstances. Even it is not right when we study the relations of the prices and the quality of the teas dealt with by the same vendor. As a commodity, tea price is mainly decided by the supply-demand relations. That is to say, in fact, people's preference which is sometimes irrational has great influence to tea prices.

For example, Dragon Well and Biluochun are almost the most expensive green teas in China. Do you know why they are so expensive?  Of course, they are wonderful indeed, but is it the only reason for the high price? No, another main reason is that they are produced in Suzhou and Hangzhou, the two wealthiest places in China dubbed as paradise by Chinese intellectuals and poets. That is why Dragon Well and Biluochun are easily known and become so popular. Some others kinds of teas such as Huoshan Huangya, Dinggu Da Fang, Huangshan Mao Feng are also wonderful in quality, however, they are not so fortunate as Dragon Well and Biluochun because they are produced in the remote areas and are difficult to be transported to towns and cities especially in ancient times. Therefore, if you want to buy Chinese teas, don't just focus on Dragon Well and Biluochun, some other teas good in quality but low in price are also good options. As a matter of fact, China is so big and there are so many famous teas.

Another example, nowadays, Chinese crave for the Mingqian tea (tea harvested before Qingming around 5th April), driving the price of the Mingqian tea such as Mingqian Dragon Well Tea to the sky high. Is the Mingqian Dragon Well Tea really so good? Is it worthwhile? Not necessarily. Tea quality is determined by many factors such as the tea cultivar, growing area, and harvest time and production method. Harvest time is only one of the factors. Now a great deal of Mingqian Dragon Well Tea we found in the market was made of tealeaves from one tea cultivar named as Wuniuzao. The Dragon Well Tea made from Wuniuzao cultivar is much worse in taste and flavor compared with the ones from the traditional cultivar Longjing Qunti while Cultivar Wuniuzao is more than 10 days earlier than the Qunti cultivar in tea buds sprouting, and more and more tea farmers join in growing Wuniuzao so that they can produce more Mingqian tea and earn more money. During recent years, the Wuniuzao Dragon Well Tea is growing fast in quantity year by year.

Misconception #2 Teas harvested earlier such as Mingqian tea is definitely better than those harvested later

Not necessarily, you can see it from what weve talked above in Misconception #1. In fact tea cultivar plays a bigger role in tea quality than the harvest time. And here is another example. You know the temperature becomes lower when the altitude increases in the same area and we all know teas growing at high mountains are much better than those at the lower altitude of the same area, however, they are much later in sprouting, sometimes later more than 15 to 20 days. And we find teas made of leaves harvested from high mountains of 1000 meters above the sea level around Mid April are always better than Mingqian tea at the foot of the mountain.

Misconception #3 I can buy the authentic famous teas so long as I go to the producing areas of its origin.

Every year, when tea farmers start harvesting and producing teas, huge crowds pour into the producing area, especially in Mejiawu, Hangzhou, the core producing area of Dragon Well and Dongshan, Xishan, the two core producing area of Biluochun. Can they really get the authentic Dragon Well or Biluochun by doing so? Not necessarily.

Thanks to the celebrity status of Dragon Well and Biluochun, the local Chaqing (plucked fresh tealeaves but not processed) is several times higher in price than those in other areas, and the local Chaqing which is quite limited can't meet the high demand. The huge profit drives people to find lucrative ways. More than 20 years ago, Chaqing from the Huangshan, Anhui province and Wuyuan, Jiangxi province were brought to Hangzhou for production. Both areas are close to Hangzhou and have a great deal of quality Chaqing. However, in recent years, to meet the high demand of Mingqian Dragon Well and Biluochun, Chaqing from Sichuan and Guizhou are brought by air to Hangzhou. By dong so, it can not only solve the shortage of the local Chaqing but also produce much more Mingqian tea because the tea trees sprout almost one month earlier than the ones in Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

Misconception #4 Pay too much attention to the grade of the tea.

The grading of tea is much sophisticated and confusing. For example, there are commonly six grades of Dragon Well tea but some tea manufactures have their own unique grading system and there are always the grade emerging that you may have never heard of in the market such as Supreme, Special AAA, and Jipin. You will be confused by the grades even as a professional. We suggest you care about it but don't pay too much attention to it. The best way is to make a sample comparison between teas of similar prices without caring too much about the grades.

Misconception #5 Green tea should be green in color and the greener the better

Totally false, nowadays, more and more people even young Chinese assume dried green tea should be green in color and the tea in yellowish color is not the tea of the current year. To take people's fancy, more and more tea makers make the tea light roasted, resulting in greener tea with bad taste. In fact, authentic Dragon Well tea made in the traditional ways is yellowish in color instead of green, the same as Huangshan Maofeng.


  1. Thanks for posting this, great stuff

  2. Liked your article , Thanks

  3. Nice post! I really like your writing style. The article gives me a lot of useful information. I also like to drink tea, especially Oolong Tea, with my favourite Yixing Teapot, what about you??

  4. Nice. I like your writing style and have been deeply impressed by your wisdom. We are one of the leading tea shop offering you vast selection of tea, including oolong tea, green tea, black tea and tea pots and sets. Welcome to browse our website and choose what you like here.

  5. It's always a challenging to find good tea, but to me it's like an adventure. Love visiting tea regions and walking through large tea markets. What's makes Chinese tea difficult to source is the diversity, but that at the same time makes it such a beautiful beverage.