From time to time we have customers write to us and say that they found “dust” in their tea. They ask us if the tea dust is ok, and what it means. For example, one of our customers owns a teahouse and was a bit perplexed when his customer asked him what the dust in his Golden Needle Black tea was all about; he was even afraid that it meant the tea was too old or of bad quality! The heart of this question is “Is my tea okay?”
In truth, the “dust” found with tea is actually a very important detail to judge whether a tea is of high quality or not.
For example, compare opening a bag of our Golden Needle Black Tea and any other normal tea such as English tea or another black tea bag from your supermarket shelf. You’ll find our Golden Needle Black Tea has lots of tea dust inside the packing, while the tea bags tea don’t (or shouldn’t) have any.
If there is a lot of tea dust in your tea, that means that it was able to make it through all of the processing, so your tea was likely more carefully made by hand. Once a tea bag has gone through all of the processing that it would normally need to go through before getting onto a supermarket shelf, there won’t be much left of the original leaves.
Use a magnifying glass to examine tea packet more carefully. Pick a golden colored needle, which is the bud, and use the glass to investigate it deeply. You’ll find the tea dust has a golden color which is the same from the Golden Needle Black Tea buds. What does this mean?
It means that the “dust” here is not actually dust at all!, rather it is “hair” from the tea buds themselves.
You see, the more tea hair and tea dust you have, the higher the quality of a tea you have, because only tea buds have so much hair. If you have low quality tea, which doesn’t have buds at all, you won’t find any tea dust. In fact, if you see “dust” in a bag of tea with no buds, than you may actually be looking at real dust! Please see the picture below which is my personal picture I took of the tea. This picture shows exactly that our teas are made from which kind of tea leaf. As you can see this picture which are standard tea buds we choose to make for our Golden Needle Black Tea. you can enlarge the picture, then you can see very clear there are lots of hair on the tea buds. Beside the bud there is one bigger leaf. You can see the leaf is very smooth and doesn’t have any hair at all. This is because once the buds grow larger it loses the hair.
This is a very important method to judge whether your tea quality is high or low. If teas are all made from big or old tea leaves without buds or few buds, it will be difficult to find any tea buds hair.
Because it’s a little scary and odd when tea bud hair shows up in your tea leaves, and because of the vastly different levels of tea quality, there isn’t really a uniform understanding of tea dust. If you look around on the internet, you may find a variety of different names and descriptions for tea dust or hair. There are definitely some interesting adjectives at work: it could show up as dust, fuzz, hairs, down, or trichomes,
If the tea dust color is gray it is likely real dust and should be thrown away. This is not good. If the color of the dust matches the color of the tea, it is most likely the hairs from the tea and your tea is fine to drink. Put some tea dust on your finger and you’ll see the color more clearly.
The size of the tea hair should be longer, much larger, and more uniform than dirt dust particles.
In international tea standard evaluations, tea hair is an important element in grading the quality of the tea. If your tea is nicer and includes buds, tea hair should be a common element. If your tea is not as nice, and has gray or black dust, that is probably real dust or dirt, and it’s time for that tea to be tossed.
If you are curious about this topic and being able to identify tea dust vs. tea hair, I would like to invite you to our International Tea Masters Certification course. Our course offers a comprehensive view of evaluating, understanding, and brewing tea. This course is for passionate tea drinkers who want to dive even more into the history and art of tea. At the end of the four courses, your knowledge and determination will be tested with the final certificate exam.
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