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Tasting Tea: A Door to the Senses (Part 1)

Bliss DakeMay 4th, 2009 by Bliss Dake

Like wine or chocolate tasting, tea tasting provides an opportunity to engage with the senses.  Discovering your favorite tea is a personal journey that will constantly surprise, as you encounter endless complexities of flavor, aroma and color. The more tea you taste, the more you will learn to appreciate the nuances between tea varieties and tea types.  And to get started, all you need are tea leaves and water.

Discovering the Elements:  Leaf, Aroma, Liquor and Flavor

Traditional tea tasting focuses on the appearance of the leaf, the aroma both before and after steeping, the color of the resulting infusion or liquor and the tea’s taste or flavor.  The elements noted below are components to keep in mind while tasting.  But remember that it’s your own individual tea tasting approach that makes the sensory experience of tea personal and memorable.

The Leaf:  Examining the leaf is telling. Is it rolled, twisted or a natural, flat leaf?  This and whether the leaf is whole or broken will impact the taste and body.

Aroma: Before steeping smell the leaves. Do they smell sweet, grassy, smoky etc.? Once infused, inhale the aroma and enjoy the bouquet. Does the smell appeal to you and whet your taste buds for sipping? Is it flowery, toasty, fruity, citrusy etc.? A tea’s nose may reveal not only quality but subtle flavors that the mouth might overlook.

teainfusionLiquor (The Infused Tea):  The color of infused tea or liquor can vary in color. Look at the consistency of its color, and appearance of the liquid in a white cup. Depth of color will denote proper brewing time.

Flavor or Taste: After slightly cooling, slurp your tea to ensure the full flavor spreads out all over your tongue. Does the tea make a strong impression? Determine whether it has a full, medium or light or round body. Is it smooth? Does the flavor leave a lasting and memorable finish or dissipate after swallowing?  Think about elements of its flavor traits – is it floral, malty, vegetal, oceanic, grassy etc.?

How the tea feels in your mouth is important too. High quality tea exhibits briskness. Instead of flat tasting, briskness refers to the astringent or dry tasting affect tea has on tongue. This astringency is an important aspect to tea; it delivers that refreshing feeling.  Oversteeped tea can be too bitter, so make sure that you’ve steeped properly.  However, steeping times can also be a matter of personal taste and some tea drinkers prefer a stronger brew.

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