It’s been over a year since I posted my first “Top 100” tea list (although, at the time I could only scrape together a Top 50), and it feels like the kind of thing that ought to be refreshed annually. Naturally i couldn’t find the Excel spreadsheet I’d used the first time around and had to start from scratch. However, the added work actually ended up being to my benefit as it forced me to completely redesign the list. There were a few issues from the Top 50 I was able to eliminate this year: Unlike last time, all the teas on the list with exception of maybe one were rated using either my 7 point scale or my new 8 point scale. One problem with the 7 point scale that kept cropping up as you’ll see, was the frequency of times I’d give a tea the exact same score as other teas in the same style without realizing it, due to averaging by mean. By adding an eighth category, the likelihood of a tie diminishes (though that wasn’t the initial purpose). My hope is that next year we can push the 9 teas that all scored a flat 92 off the bottom of the chart. ;)
Part of this redesign work was done with an eye toward furthering the ability to compare apples to apples at a glance. To that end, I’ve broken the list into groups where the rating either falls squarely on an integer, or rounds up or down to that integer for better comparison. Instead of a giving props to the winner of a certain style (there are simply too many styles listed at this point), I’ve tried to make the style/terroir and growing region easier to browse. Additionally, there are a few teas you’ll find omitted from the original Top 50–in some cases too much information was unverifiable and in others i really wanted to eliminate teas that had never ended up as a published blog post.
Legend note: I left the region blank for Pu-erh as the only real Pu-erh that exists is from Yunnan, China (in other words, to write “Yunnan, Pu-erh” is a redundant eyesore). Similarly, the only tea that is grown in Assam is Black tea (believe it or not though, it isn’t necessarily redundant to say “Uji Green”). If you’re unfamiliar with a growing region, i encourage you to click-through to the corresponding page and learn a bit about it.
Finally, in the case of rating ties (and there are a lot), I’ve chosen to list them by vendor and tea name alphabetically, rather than attempt to rank them using biased personal opinion. The whole concept of rating teas based on an arbitrary number 1 to 100 for any category is inherently subjective opinion (with the help of a great deal of research mind you) on my part anyway–picking favorites among ties feels redundant and embarrassing.
What’s the takeaway? I’d say Vendor of the Year this time goes to Light of Day Organics, who managed to snag 6 seats in the top 50, including the second highest tea ever rated on this blog! What’s even more impressive? Most of those were products Angela grew herself… in Michigan (if you’ve ever been to India or the Orient, you’ll wonder how such a thing might be remotely possible). Some of the teas on the lower-rated half of this list have supposedly been carefully crafted over centuries; Angela has perfected some of these products in less than 13 years. On top of all that, LODO just wrapped up its first successful year as the chosen tea vendor for University of Michigan Cafés (and my business meetings have never been more pleasant ;). Well done Light of Day Organics!