Yesterday was spent cupping new teas for our curated tea selection at Pearl Fine Teas. 38 teas were included and only 1 made the cut this week: Drum Mountain White Tea. It will be joining the 2017 tea family in the weeks to come, so keep an eye out for it or sign up on the website to be notified when its available.
For those of you that don’t know what “cupping” is, it’s a way that tea professionals assess tea leaves for both quality and defects. There is a standard used so that everything is on equal ground. Typically teas are cupped at 5 minutes for this kind of assessment. Having done this now for 10 years (a drop in the tea bucket compared to others), I remember the early days when I was learning about tea and was introduced to cupping for the very first time. One instance stands out because it had an actual physical effect on me. I was cupping teas at an STI class that lasted for a whole day. I lost count at how many teas were sampled, but by mid-way through, I had to stop because I was over caffeinated. That’s an experience you don’t want to have. I was so wrapped up in tasting the plethora of teas, that I forgot to spit them out after each taste (like wine tasting) and it caught up to me. Not fun.
Learning how to cup teas correctly was necessary and invaluable, but I don’t always follow the international standard. Sometimes, I’ll cup a tea twice: the first time for evaluation and the second, at a time that I feel works best for my customers in real life. If some teas are just downright awful, they don’t make it to the second round. It’s disheartening when I come across these, which sadly, is far too often. I know what goes into producing these leaves: from planting to plucking to processing, and the immense amount of work that goes into delivering you that delightful cup of tea. Each leaf deserves respect–even the less then tasty unlovable ones.
One way I reconcile this is to make sure all tea leaves have an honorable ending. So whether I’m cupping samples, or just having my daily cups of tea, the used tea leaves get put back into the earth via compost. I keep a plastic tupperware container on my kitchen counter just for used tea leaves. When it’s filled I bring it to my rose garden and work the leaves into the soil. I did a post on this a few years back about tea and roses that you can read here.
When I’m cupping large amounts of tea samples, the used leaves go into a giant bowl and then are transferred to my compost bin. I always say I have the best smelling compost bin in DC! So please, don’t just throw your used tea leaves into your trash bin. Collect them and give them back to the earth. It will make your plants happy and it keeps the circle of life flowing. If you happen to prefer to use teabags, you can open the bag, discard the nylon into the trash, and put the tea leaves into your compost or garden. I love being able to give back to the earth, especially since it gave us the tea bush. I know you will too!
~The Chief Leaf