Buying tea is the first step in the pursuit of a perfect cup. Buying tea should be a fun, no pressure adventure. Thus, We have made a checklist below for a sure fire plan to get the Japanese tea you’re looking for, and hopefully, that perfect cup.
Do a little research
Get an idea of what you are in the market for. Is there some specific Japanese tea you want to try, say Kabuse Sencha or Houjicha? A google search and a little internet sleuthing (our blog and site are great places to start) can turn you on to some styles of Japanese tea you might not know about. Having a tea you are excited to try can often make the experience more rewarding.
Find a reputable tea seller and go in person
The best way to buy tea is in person, especially if you are just starting out. Look up your local tea seller, preferably specialized in Japanese tea. Reading reviews of the establishment on Google Business Pages or Yelp, or asking people who have had experience with the shop is a great way to know if they are worth visiting. Once you find a place you feel has a good reputation, make a trip. Getting to know the staff is a great resource for learning more about Japanese tea. They are almost always happy to help, and in my experience, especially happy for a chance to talk about tea. Most tea shops will have a menu categorized by tea type and/or region of origin. Ask for help if it seems confusing or intimidating. The more specifics on each tea they can provide, the higher likelihood that the tea is well sourced, fresh, and delicious.
The staff at tea shops usually love talking with interested customers. I learned so much about tea from talking with people at the store in my hometown. Don’t be shy or scared to ask something even if you think it’s stupid. The only way to learn about Japanese tea is to ask! If you are shopping online, drop the company a line with your question - they will usually happily answer (if not, avoid).
Over time, this relationship with your tea seller will no doubt lead to more discoveries. As they get to know what you like, they will be able to recommend new and interesting teas to try. The reality is, many tea shops have under trained staff who may not have accurate or correct information regarding the tea. Having a list questions can help you make sure you are getting the right stuff. Here are a few:
- Can you tell me where this tea is from?
- Is there a particular reason your establishment chose this one?
- Any information on the producer?
- When was it packaged? Is there a best by date?
- Any chance I could sample it?
- How are your teas shipped to you?
- How would you describe this tea compared to --- (similar offering from shop)?
Let your taste guide you
One of the most important things to remember is to buy with your palate. As you develop and grow, so will your palate. But let it guide you and lead you to the things you naturally like. Drinking Japanese tea should be enjoyable and finding tea that makes you happy is paramount. After you find a home base of what it is that you like, you can begin to explore flavors and aromas that might feel a little foreign at first - and before long they may end up your new favorite.
Buy small and frequently
A mistake I’ve made in the past is getting overly excited and purchasing way more tea than I need. Over buying leads to stale tea. You can always come back. If I am trying a new tea I will usually buy 50 - 100g, and if it’s something I drink regularly I will buy a max of 200g. Buying small also keeps you visiting the store more regularly, which again, leads to new discoveries. With a normal serving size of tea being about 5-6 grams, expect about 20 servings per 100g package.
Of course, many people enjoy shopping for Japanese tea online and while you might be buying without tasting, the truth is more quality tea is now sold online than in physical stores. Below is a checklist we recommend when shopping online.
- Read reviews. Reviews of specific teas are great and reviews of the brand in general are also important. Remember, customer service, reliability and safety in sourcing are all equally important.
- Look for a site that offers specifics. The more information on a tea, the better. We at Kettl provide details to a very specific level: Region and prefecture of origin, city of origin, and often even the growers name (check out our product pages and FAQ section to find out more about our teas!). Every tea seller has a responsibility to share the story of the tea - cultivars, elevations, notable facts about origin - and should be excited to. Avoid companies who are vague on the details.
- Look for teas packaged with best buy or packed on dates. These help you understand the freshness of the product. It is critical that Japanese tea be fresh and unfortunately, much of what is sold on the internet is stored improperly and old to begin with.
Looking for a new exciting Japanese Tea to try? At Kettl we stock over 40 different Japanese Teas. Check out our online store for more details!