About single estate tea...

“Single estate tea” is any tea originating from one single tea property, plantation or garden, where the make up of the tea plant’s environment, soil elements, elevation level, as well as climate are important factors that directly contribute to the quality, taste, and health benefits of each tealeaf.

The vast majority of teas sold in the U.S. are actually blends from various estates, or a combination of tea leaves with herbs, dried fruits, or other essential essences.  A favorite herbal tea you maybe familiar with is Chamomile, which is made from daisy-like dried chamomile flowers.  Other favorites are herbs like peppermint, lavender, or hibiscus and they are often blended with oils or colorful fruits to achieve an appealing look or particular taste profile.  What’s important to know is that these herbal, floral, and fruit infusions are not actually tea: true tea is made from the leaves of tea bushes known as camellia senensis, and can also offer minimal levels of caffeine, whereas herbal infusions cannot.

Sometimes these herbal ingredients are blended with actual tea leaves, however this often compromises tea’s natural taste and health benefits.  For centuries people have sipped tea for its health properties, as tea was discovered in ancient Asia for its many medicinal purposes.  Over the years, the scientific community continues to discover various health benefits found in tea, which can span from lowering cholesterol levels to cancer-fighting agents and countless more.  Since herbs are not technically considered tea, they cannot offer the bounty of health properties of true tea. 

Single estate teas are pure, whole-leaf teas from camellia senensis that are not blended with any additives.  More importantly, these teas reflect the distinct taste profile of their unique origin.  Like wine, tea from a singular origin is indicative of its terrior.  Wine enthusiasts know to choose their wine based on location, geography, geology, and climate because these factors determine the final and complete taste profile.  For instance, green tea from Japan will not taste the same as green tea from China, just like Pinot Noir from California will taste different from those produced in France.  It’s a matter of preference, and most wine connoisseurs learn their preference based on education and experimentation—the same goes for tea.  Aside from its incredible health properties, understanding single estate tea connects you to the environment and culture of the origin where a particular tea is produced.  This is where tea becomes an art form.  Just like a single malt scotch, vintage wine, and single origin coffee, we appreciate single estate tea for the same reasons.

Learning your preferences in tea will take time and practice. With time you will learn the distinct difference in the complexity of its natural taste, from one single estate tea to another.  To start drinking single estate tea, I recommend picking a tea type that reflects your taste profile.  White, Green, Oolong and Black teas are the four major categories and their taste profiles vary from light to strong in that order.  You can assess your taste profile base on your preference in wine.  If you drink white wine regularly, then I recommend starting with a lighter tea, within the white or green category.  If you prefer red wine, then start with Oolong or Black tea, as they are richer in taste. 

Spend sometime exploring each particular category of tea at a time, and learn to detect the subtle difference between the estates you prefer as well.  Trust that you will find the tea that you love.  After all, it’s about your tea journey, and not just the destination.