One of the biggest price differences between a quality tea and an average tea-bag tea is in the way it is harvested. Here's a little introduction to tea harvesting methods.

Machines or by-hand?

As a rule, good quality teas should be harvested by hand, and the difference is not just a feel-good-factor of hand-made teas.

Machine harvesting involves basically a huge vacuum-cleaner type contraption which sucks the leaves from the tea plant. There are small hand-held ones, or large-scale industrial ones. If you've ever seen or owned a mulch-making garden tool, then think about that in reverse and you'll get the idea.

When this happens, not just the soft leaves, but also twigs and stems are sucked up into the mix. The leaves themselves are broken, battered and bruised (which ruins the flavour) and there's more chance of a flavourless twig getting into your brew.

By comparison, hand-picked tea leaves (like ours!) arrive for processing in perfect condition, and are wilted and dried with all of their flavour and nutrients intact. It leads to a better tasting brew, but also better looking leaves with a fuller shape and colour. The trade-off is that hand-picking takes much longer, and is more labour-intensive, and so the price rises correspondingly.