I was looking up why my green tea isn't as green as the other guy's and stumbled upon this question: Why is my green tea brown?

So I guess the tea I believed was the best I could get is not actually the best. And I can't fully trust what the seller has to say about the quality of their product, so I'd like to find a way to discover the real quality of the tea I'm drinking.

Are there any reliable ways to tell how old the tea is and if it has been stored properly?

  • 1
    In what situation do you want to tell this? At a brick and mortar store, a web store, at home ...?
    – citizen
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 9:23
  • Preferably at B&M store, but if it's not possible to tell there, then I guess it's home. Commented May 27, 2013 at 13:34
  • 2
    Okay. Well, I haven't read the question you're referring to, but colour doesn't say much about quality. Colour depends on what type of tea and what kind of cup you're using (green tea can be yellow, green, red/brown). I don't think there's any way to tell how's it been stored either. When I buy tea, I look for unbroken leaves and if you find that it tastes good at home, it's probably a good store for other teas as well.
    – citizen
    Commented May 27, 2013 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


You can't (or at least I can't) tell without a lot of experience with teas of that sort. Generally, a sufficiently fresh tea will have a decently strong fragrance when you smell the dry leaves. As it grows stale, the fragrance will be replaced gradually by mustiness. But which fragrance to expect varies dramatically by the tea. For instance, pan-fried greens like dragonwell (longjing) tend to smell vaguely nutty, while a sencha will smell more grassy. Dragonwell will also be more yellowish while the sencha will be more greenish. But these are two of many different varieties of green.

Also, there's a continuum of oxidation from green to black, so "too oxidized" is really a matter of taste. If you buy a Darjeeling (black), it'll tend to be lightly oxidized for a black tea; if your green is darker than that, maybe it shouldn't be called green.

I'm sure with appropriate analytical chemistry equipment you could determine some aspects of tea "quality"--but this would be complete overkill unless you're running a major tea business and you want to ensure quality. And even then, you'd probably be better off hiring a number of taste-testers.

There is one test (but it's not definitive): brew the tea, then leave the cup out for a day. If it doesn't get dramatically darker by the end of the day, it's already mostly oxidized.

In any case, if you like the tea, why do you care so much about the quality? You can find some outrageously expensive teas--I've noticed some South Korean greens in particular--that start getting into the price ranges of fine wines, but unless you're doing this to impress people, you're better off trying a variety of samples and then getting the one/ones you like. (Hopefully you won't find that you really like those South Korean greens....)

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