We talk a lot about how processing affects the taste of tea. But one area that can get overlooked is freshness. When we buy tea we may not really think much about when it was produced. Tea doesn’t “go off”, and it doesn’t have an expiry date. While it still may be safe to consume for many years after its production, tea can lose its flavour, aroma and colour as the months pass.
Once a tea has been harvested, processed and is ready to drink, the biggest enemy affecting its taste is time. Natural oils and flavours will evaporate over time. For some teas, ageing can be desirable. White tea and dark oolongs for example can develop beautiful flavours over time. For the most part, it has a negative effect.
The most common way that tea from South Asia, particularly India and Sri Lanka, is traded involves a complex supply chain with tea passing through many middlemen on the way. Before it reaches the supermarket shelves, it will have passed through local auctions, brokers, packers, sea cargo transportation, wholesalers, distributers and eventually retailers. The average time for a tea once it has been harvested to reach the shelves in the UK is a year.
At The Karma Tea Co. we buy tea that has been freshly picked and sent in small batches which shortens the shipping time dramatically. Buying directly from growers means we know when and how the tea was processed and packaged. It also means we know it hasn’t spent months languishing in a warehouse.
Just like it’s incredible to eat a vegetable that’s just been picked, next time try tasting a fresh tea to see the difference.