Do Your Own Tasting

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TEA TASTING

The act of tasting is a far more complex mechanism than we might imagine. To taste something we need our five senses, to different degrees. When we taste a tea, several small events take place, each associated with a different sense.

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  1. Leaf Appearance -

As a tea taster, the first thing you do is inspect the dry tea leaves. A large proportion of your overall option should be based on its appearances.

Shape - Are the tea leaves large or small? Are there bits of different sizes of leaf in it?
Color – Are all the tea leaves of a uniform color? Tea leaves with dissimilar colors would mean that the tea is a blend of several different flushes or from different tea estates.
Texture – Are the tea leaves sticky or powdery?
Tea Buds – The more the presence of buds the better the flavor of the tea.

Signs of a Good Loose Tea:

Gold or Bronze flecks in Black, Green, Oolong and White Teas denotes the presence of young and flavorful leaves in the teas. The greater concentration of these flecks results in a superior tasting cup.

The tea leaves should be crisp to touch. If the leaves do not crunch between your fingers when pressed would mean that the leaves have absorbed moisture or flavor from its surroundings.

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  1. Brewing the Perfect Cup -

Do refer to our detailed Steeping and Enjoying Tea guide here. It is very similar to what seasoned Te Tasters follow as well.

Weight of Tea – 2 grams or a heaped teaspoon.
Quantity of Water – Use 150 to 180 ml of fresh water always.
Crockery – Use the whitest crockery which you have. This allows you to see the color, depth and clarity of the brewed tea.
Steeping Time – Tea tasters usually steep the tea for three and a half minutes which is a sufficient amount of time to the leaves to release their color, flavor and aroma.

 

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  1. What does the brew (Infusion) look like?

Tea Tasters call the infusion 'liquor'. When inspecting the liquor, they look for the following:

Color – Good tea leaves will always have a vibrant color infusion.
Physical Appearance – Needs to be shiny, oily in appearance and bright. Its fine to have a little leaf fragments floating around the bottom of the cup.
Steeped Leaf Appearance – It’s necessary to scrutinize the wet leaves. They should have a fresh tea fragrance. They should have a vivid and bright color. The leaves should have become plump and whole again.

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  1. Let’s taste!

Tasting is not only done by our tongues. Experts have suggested that up to 90% of flavor is perceived through our sense of smell.  It is our tongues which detect five essential tastes and these give us our initial impression: Sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.

Our taste buds form part of an intricate system that allows our brain to decide on a taste. The taste buds along with gustatory receptors and the olfactory gland allow our brain to make a decision on whether or not we recognize and like the flavor of what we are about to taste.

The Olfactory Gland is situated several centimeters behind the back of our eyes and nose.  With its fine hairs on its surface it captures molecules of what we smell and in some case putting in our mouth. This is the reason why Tea Tasters always slurp in the liquor with large amounts of air.

A combination of the neural messages from the tongue, olfactory gland and with some help from the gustatory receptors we are quickly able to build a profile of the tea we are drinking.

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  1. Sniffing the Aroma -

Because we predominantly taste through our sense of smell, it's important to deeply consider the aroma. There are two techniques for Sniffing, these are:

Deep Inhalations - Hold the brew as close to your nose as possible and take a deep breath.
Dog Action - Take rapid, shallow inhalations through the nose, rather like a panting sniffing.

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  1. Tasting and Slurping -

Scoop up some of the liquor with your spoon.

Slurp the liquid up into your mouth from the surface of the spoon. The louder the slurp, the greater the amount of air mixes with the liquor. This is done to mix oxygen with the liquor as it helps to enhance the flavors in your mouth.
Breathe out through your nose whilst keeping your mouth closed. This is referred to as retro-olfaction perception. 

Then swallow the liquor.

Pay special attention to any sensations created on the tongue for example sweetness or savory. And remember that bitterness is present in the majority of teas because of varying degrees of tannins.

Now that you've learnt the art of slurping, let's move on to inspecting the taste. 

  1. Flavor.

When tasting not all aromas and flavors are detectable at the same time. There can be many complex layers of taste. Let’s look for three different notes: head, body and tail which are simpler to identify.

Head notes are the ones that give you the initial impression, and they come extremely quickly. Thinking about this first impression, do you taste earthy, fruity, zesty, vegetal or sweet notes or is it a combination of two or more notes.

Then you feel the body notes. These notes give the overall lasting impression with plenty more flavor details. If the first impression was fruity did berry or citrus or tropical notes stand out?

And finally, the tail notes which refer to after taste are the ones that linger and stay with you after the liquor has been swallowed. This final stage often reflects the complexity and the quality. Refer to our color wheel for more details. {Insert color wheel}

8. How does the mouth feel? 

Mouth Feel is extremely important as it indicates the strength of the liquor.

Mouth feel points to the physical sensations you feel in your mouth when you taste tea. Bear in mind that different teas trigger different sensations. Some teas are smooth and round, some are drying and biting, some are delicate or light, some are coarse, some can also be brisk.

A good tea leaf should result in a brew which has a good mouth body will be smooth, round and brisk. Inferior tea leaves leave a mouth with sensations of dryness, biting and coarseness.

It takes several years of practice and perseverance to be a successful tea taster. Conquer the above processes and you will be well on your way to being an authority of tea tasting yourself!

 

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