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Tippy tea (only the youngest, thinnest, smallest, leaves)

Tippy tea

Tippy tea is a tea grade, used for designating products made only with the youngest, thinnest, and smallest leaves. In this post, we will go through its impact on taste, flavour, and feeling. We will also list the different designations for tippy tea, within the various tea types.

What exactly is tippy tea?

It is the English expression for a variety of Chinese designations, all referring to the fact that a product has been made exclusively with very young and therefore very thin leaves. The range goes from buds to young leaves, via half developed leaves.

 Tippy tea: How does it taste?

The additional effort involved in picking and processing only tiny tea leaves is quite significative. If there was no benefit to the taste, tea makers would not go to all this extra care. So what are the particularities of tippy tea? While it has various effects on how a tea tastes, depending on the tea type,  they can be resumed with the following three superlatives:

  • More intense
  • More refined
  • More fragrant

At the same time, this kind of tea is also more sensitive to the quality and to the heat of the water, as well as to the steeping duration. It therefore takes a little practice to brew it to perfection.

Tippy tea’s many names

Different names are used to describe this grade of tea, within the different tea types.

  • The word Bud (芽): “Ya” is often used in the names of green or yellow teas, entirely made of leaves that have not opened yet.
  • Hair Tip (毛尖): “Maojian” is a name used for green tea made with thin, hair-like leaves.
  • Thread (丝): “Si” is used in the names of red teas.
  • Needle (针): “Zhen” is a word often associated with white and red teas.
  • Imperial (宫廷): “Gongting” is a grading often used for some dark teas like ripe Pu’er Tea.

 Young leaves vs fully grown leaves

While young leaves are definitely a delicacy, fully grown leaves are not necessarily a second rate choice. It is  sometimes more a question of character. For example, fully grown leaves are an ideal choice for a tea designed to become aged tea. A tea made with fully grown leaves will also gain in sweetness what it loses in intensity. However, leaves that are too old will get a coarse taste. Past a certain number of days, tea leaves can no more be used for making tea.

The picture above shows both a tippy yellow tea and a tippy red tea. Different processing methods have given them significantly different appearances.

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