No matter how carefully I sample a tea it's only when we finally received them here, in Edinburgh, that you can really tell what the quality is like. (Travel can often not be kind on delicate loose leaf teas!)
For many tea farmers atrocious weather conditions in China have played havoc with their crops this year. Quantities of certain teas coming to market this spring have been significantly lower and consequently some prices have gone up.
We have spent this evening preparing the first of the spring harvest teas we've received from China and Taiwan for vacuum storage; this machine has significantly improved the freshness of the teas we stock.
Customers often tell us how delighted they are when they open one of our bags and experience for the first time the aroma of fresh tea. This aroma is one of my favourite parts of this job hence I still have no problems packing tea myself simply. I love the overwhelming scent that comes from opening a chest of fresh loose leaf tea.
Aroma is as important an indicator of the freshness and likely flavour of a tea as is brewing it.
While the quantities maybe lower this year, the quality is fantastic. I dislike companies that claim year after year 'it's the best year ever.' This simply is impossible. I was quite honest about this last year and mentioned that I felt many teas were perhaps not quite as good as the previous.
While I think all teas are far better this year there are certain one which, given their decline last year, have vastly improved this harvest.
Our 2013 Bao Zhong Oolong, one of our most popular teas when we launched in 2011, is even better than our launch harvest. I am confident this will sell well and it's at its absolute finest right now only weeks after being harvested.
Our Best Selling Silver Needle White Tea has risen in price however, the smaller harvest has resulted in a brighter more concentrated white tea flavour. Similar can be said about our Pai Mu Tan (White Peony).
My favourite tea of 2012 will quite possibly remain the same this year, Tie Guan Yin. Once again this is simply etherial and I'm delighted we were able to buy slightly more of it this year. Even if it doesn't sell I'll quite happily drink the lot!
Our new website should launch really soon (next week probably) so I'll begin updating the tasting notes on this however, overall I think this is going to be a great year for tea!