The Art of Tasting Tea
The warmth and the experience that sipping tea provides is the main reason why this beverage is so popular around the globe. As experts say - Tea is a product of its environment, and how it is grown and processed makes each tea unique, giving it the aroma, characteristics, body, and health properties.
While you may be an avid tea drinker and doing it all your life, what if we were to say that you are tasting your tea wrong! There is a certain importance in knowing how to taste your tea. It takes skills to recognise the key flavours, different aromas, and recognise different tea combinations to get the most from your tea.
Many of us taste tea every day, and several times a day. But tasting tea and describing what meets your tongue is an entirely different experience. Tea tasters across the globe use several methods to taste their teas - carefully noting subtle differences in aroma, texture, colour, and flavour profiles.
The Tea Test
The first thing to do is to inspect the dry tea. First impressions count and surprisingly, a lot of it is based on how the tea looks.
· Can you see any tea buds?
· Is the texture sticky? Crumbly? Or ground like dust?
· Are the leaves of the same colour? If the colours are different it means it is a blend
· What are the bits of tea like? Large? Small?
What are the signs of a good loose tea?
· It includes ‘buds’
· It easily crunches between your fingers (no moisture)
· In green, black, and white tea, presence of bronze or gold flecks. These flecks are young tea leaves
Preparing the Brew
Now that you have inspected your tea, it is time that you make the perfect brew. There are specific standards set while preparing the brew to ensure that every tasting is consistent. So, let’s take a look at them.
· Always follow the standard approach (which is distinct for every tea taster)
· Use 2-3 grams of tea for brewing a cup (in the United Kingdom, it measures to a heaped teaspoon)
· The amount of water to use is what you usually drink
· Crockery is the main. Get the whitest crockery set you can find. It allows you to see the depths and colours of tea
· The preferred ‘brew time’ is three-and-a-half-minutes. It is the right amount of time for the goodness, flavour, and colour to come out.
Note: do not over squeeze the tea while straining as this could release tannins that may hinder the taste.
What the Brew Looks Like?
After the straining the tea in the cup, determine:
· The colour of the liquid. Here, you will be looking for a bright, sparkly-like colour
· The physical appearance. Here, you will be looking for bright, oily, and shiny appearance. It is okay if little fragments are floating around the cup
· Consider the colour, texture, aroma, and appearance of the tea leaves as well, after brewing. This shows the clarity of the tea you are about to taste
It’s Time to Taste Your Tea!
We know you are dying to taste your tea. But before you do that, you need to understand the science behind it.
According to studies and experts, 90% of the flavour of the tea you are about to taste is perceived through smell. And our tongue detects five essential tastes that give you an initial impression of the tea.
These five tastes include umami (pleasant savoury taste in Japanese), bitter, acidic, salty, and sweet. Tea tasters say that the initial perception of something can throw you off the taste. Thus, it is essential to first take the aroma in before tasting.
The taste buds in our tongue forms an intricate system, allowing our brain to decide the taste. Our olfactory gland, along with the gustatory receptors and taste buds, allows our brain to quickly decide on whether we recognise the flavour and what we are about to consume.
The olfactory gland has fine hairs on its surface and is located behind the back of our nose and eyes. It captures the tiny molecules of what we are smelling and put it in our mouth.
This is the reason why experts recommend slurping the tea so that the molecules mix with the air.
As a result, we are quickly able to build a profile of the tea, thanks to the combination of neural messages from the gustatory receptors, olfactory gland, and the tongue.
Now, there are two prominent techniques when it comes to sniffing tea:
1. Deep inhalations, where you hold the warm cup of tea close to your nose and take a deep breath
2. Dog action, where you take shallow yet rapid inhalations through the nose
By doing this, you will start getting the first perception of the flavour you are about to taste.
· Take a spoon and scoop the tea a bit
· Take a deep breath and slurp the tea into your mouth from the spoon (the louder the slurp, the better)
· By slurping, you will be mixing oxygen with the liquid.
· Next, breathe out from your nose while keeping your mouth closed. Then swallow the tea
· At the time when the tea is still in your mouth, pay attention to the sensations created on your tongue. The impression may be anything from savoury and sweetness.
Enough with slurping, it is time to determine what’s the flavour like. You need to understand that there will be different complex layers of taste. However, you have to look into three
different notes. They are:
The head note is the first impression that gives you the first perception of what you are about to taste. Make sure you quickly catch the head note as it comes thick and fast.
The body note is something that gives an overall lasting impression of the flavour.
Finally, the tail note is the one that lingers and stays with you after you swallow the tea.
That’s it! This is how you taste tea. Try out with your friends or loved ones, and share the experience.