One very simple metric of checking whether or not a tea is good is really pretty intuitive – how fast do you drink the tea?
I have enough tea to last me a while, but among them, some are consumed quite quickly, and some take forever. Some teas, especially ones that are not very interesting, may be left undrunk for a long time, while others, such as a few aged oolongs that I have, are things I have to control myself from drinking, lest I run out of it. The same can probably be said of samples – when you buy a bunch of samples, there are ones that will be drunk immediately and gone within a week, while other samples, you may open, and they will then fester – left around, because you don’t really want to go there again, usually because it’s bad.
This is more obvious when you have a session with multiple teas and with multiple drinkers. When you have a few teas going, often times the group will then sort of settle on one or two teas, and decide to keep going and going with that one, instead of drinking the others that you have brewed. Sometimes, of course, a tea is drunk to exhaustion, but that’s rarely the case when you have a few different teas going. Usually, they’re drunk to the point where the group no longer wants it, or deems it not-so-good, and move on.
In many ways, I think this is a more honest test of whether or not a tea is good. Of course, good, as used here, means good to drink now. A harsh sample may be great in the future if aged properly for years, but right now, what you want to drink tend to be the teas that you like the most. If you want more of it, chances are, it’s good. I think this is probably a more honest and straightforward method of determining whether you like a tea or not than trying to figure out what flavours and notes and aftertaste you get from it.