Buying Japanese tea at a health store or specialty shop can be sketchy at best. From my own experience, I haven’t been able to find any good Japanese tea in a local store. Why is this?
Shipping Is Not Cheap
If you’re a serious Japanese tea drinker, you probably have experience with buying tea from online shops. (That is unless you became so serious about Japanese tea that you moved to Japan. If you have, Griff will want to see if you’d like to write for the AJ-GT blog! 😛 )
Anyway, if you have bought from an online store, your tea was most likely shipped on a plane for the major part of its journey. Grocery stores, health food stores, and specialty shops usually opt to have their products shipped by cargo ship, which is a lot slower, but more cost effective.
The longer your tea is stuck in shipping, the less fresh it will be once it arrives to you, never mind the shelf life.
Local Stores Don’t Know Any Better
I don’t often come to the defense of retail tea stores (actually I don’t ever) but let’s face it, most couldn’t spot quality Japanese tea if it was right under their noses.
Japanese tea is a vast subject on its own. Massive. How could someone running an all encompassing tea store have an intimate knowledge about all their teas? The fact is they can’t, and they don’t. The more “exotic” a tea is, the less they will know.
On top of that, there is a good chance they also won’t know how sensitive Japanese tea is to oxygen, and how to properly store it. (Belle’s tip: If they keep their tea in large containers for customers to scoop out of, don’t buy any!)
Some People Buy Up Their Product Anyway
I know you are an educated tea drinker. I know you can tell the difference between good and bad tea. But some people can’t. They will buy supermarket brand tea anyway, tell their friends how bad green tea tastes, and continue to drink it for the “health benefits”. (Side note: low grade tea that’s gone stale does not have much nutritional value.)
But seeing how the words “green tea” sell well to the average customer, the market for these low quality teas will remain.
They Aren’t All Bad
Even though I’ve yet to find a store selling decent Japanese green tea, I don’t want to make it sound like they don’t exist. I believe they do. In fact I’ve had some friends tell me about being able to find good tea locally. These stores are independently run tea shops specializing in Japanese tea. They are very sparse, but they do exist.
If you find one of these little shops, please do us (and them) a favor and let everyone know where their store is at! 🙂