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black tea evaluation

Does the look of dry leaves matter?

Figure out how good a tea is even before taking a sip

We all agree to some degree that we should not judge someone based entirely on their appearance. The same logic should apply to tea as well, but the appearance of dry leaves does give us some clues of their quality.

To evaluate dry leaves, we generally pay attention to 5 aspects and they are shape, size consistency, cleanness, colour and aroma.

1. Shape

Here we want to focus our attention on the shape of the leaves. Does the shape of your tea leaves resemble the characteristic shape of this tea? Is it tightly or loosely twisted/rolled/curled?

2. Size consistency

Are tea leaves uniform in size and in length? For whole leaf teas, are there any broken pieces?

3. Cleanness

What do you see other than tea leaves? Is there presence of stalks, stems, broken leaf, tea dust and other foreign matter (e.g. hair or any non-tea substances) and how much is present?

4. Colour

Is it the right tone of colour for this type of tea? How consistent is the tea colour across the tea leaves? Lustrous or dull?

5. Aroma

When smelling the dry leaves, what is your first impression? Is the smell pleasant and pleasing? Did you detect any unusual odor?

Overview of Dry Leaf Evaluation

Here we have two samples of English Breakfast tea. Sample A is from tea bag and Sample B is from loose leaf.

English Breakfast

English Breakfast

Now let’s go down our list of the 5 aspects and jot down some quick notes:

Now let’s look at another example of black tea. Here we have two samples of Keemun (or Qimen) black tea.

Keemun/Qimen Black

Hope that from our exercises above, you will have some idea of your tea before you take your first sip.

Take a more careful look at the tea leaves is especially important when you cannot taste the tea before you make a purchase.

If you have any questions or comments, please drop us a line at We look forward to hear from you!

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