A tale of two teas: how processing affects tea flavor

Both of these teas are from the same Jin Xuan bushes. The leaves on the left are slightly more dull and their shape less beautiful. The leaves on the right are brighter in color, shinier and are rolled into a nicer shape. So which one would you buy? Most people would choose the tea on the right, which is a logical choice since it looks better in all aspects. See the next picture to find out the difference between these two teas.

Again, these two teas are made from the leaves of the same plants. Looking at the color of the tea which one would you choose? Again the tea on the right looks more clear and has a beautiful bright yellow color, while the tea on the left is dull and dark. And now for the more important question. Which one tastes better? On all accounts, so far the tea on the right looks much better. It even has a brighter fragrance and smells more floral. Its in drinking these teas that there is a noticeable difference that makes us reconsider all the beauty and fragrance the tea on the right has provided us with so far. While drinking the tea on the right it seems to disappear in the mouth. There is no mouthfeel in this tea. It still provides a little huigan in the throat but when the tea hits the tongue and is in the mouth it really feels empty. In contrast the tea on the left has much more body and is full flavored in the mouth. The flavor fills the mouth from the sides of the tongue, down to the throat. The whole mouth is filled with the body of the tea. Everything would lead you to choose the tea on the right but after drinking these two teas, you would choose the one on the left.

Where do these differences come from? The tea on the left was traditionally processed. The tea on the right was processed with a machine that compacts the leaves making a more beautiful tea on all accounts but one that severely compromises the flavor and mouthfeel of the tea. The reason this machine is being used more and more frequently is because it saves a huge amount of labor. Tea workers are refusing to work in a tea making facility without the compacting machine because they (very understandably) don't want to do the extra manual labor.

This is a problem more and more tea makers are being faced with. In order to produce tea, workers are demanding to use this machine and don't want to work at a place without it. Because of this the farmers are being forced to purchase the machine, or else they cannot hire labor. Unfortunately tea produced this way is inferior in flavor. Fortunately, for now this grower doesn't have the compacting machine and the tea he's producing is rich in flavor.

Emilio del Pozo
Emilio del Pozo


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