Preparing & tasting

It does not really matter what teapot you use to prepare the tea, the main important thing is that you can control the steeping time. It is also important that you can re steep your tea several times, so do not take excessive amounts but prepare the amount of tea you drink immediately. We prefer a gaiwan or a small teapot.

Just like enjoying a good wine, tasting premium tea is a true pleasure. With a few simple steps you can shift your tea tasting from ‘mmmm’ to ‘wow!’ The next steps will help you to develop your tea palete, and appreciate the nuances quality teas have to offer.

 

Look at the tealeaves

The appearance of the tea leaves gives you a hint at the quality.

Most of the time, full leaves are of better quality than broken leaves. White tea should be covered in fine downy hairs. Japanese tea usually has a deep green (almost bluish) colour. Tea with more tips, often are more nuanced and complex than those without. Fresh teas almost always have a glossy sheen.

Brew your tea.

 

When you prepare tea, try different brewing times,temperatures and types of water and try to find the method that suits you best. Or … use the time to reflect on your day or just relax.

 

Look at the tea leaves and the brew

 

Look at the colour and the transparency of the tea. This is part of the beauty of tea, and one of the reasons why a cup with a white interior is the best choice. Dark tea, turbidity or residue can be a sign of low quality (although there are exceptions, for instance Japanese steamed green tea).

By looking at the leaves, one can learn a lot about that tea, particularly in the case of rolled oolongs and other shaped teas. You can notice if only buds have been used, or a particular part of the buds and leaves. Sometimes it is more evident that the leaves were broken, after you have made the tea.

Smell the tea and leaves

In Chinese tea culture, the aroma and aftertaste of a tea are as important as the flavour. Sometimes, special aroma cups are used to enjoy the scent before drinking the tea. Appreciating the aroma first is an extra dimension to your tea tasting.

It is best to use a narrow cup and to close your eyes when you smell the tea. Professional tea tasters stick their nose into the welded tea leaves. You don’t have to go there, sniffing at the leaves is fine. However, sticking your nose into the leaves can be very entertaining and informative during your tea tasting.

Taste the tea

Finally, it’s time to taste the tea! To get the full taste of the tea, slurp it as you would slurp wine in a wine tasting. The goal is to spray a fine mist of tea over the entire palate and even the back of the throat. Just be careful not to choke on the tea!

Once you have slurped the tea, roll it over your tongue in a swishing motion. If you’d like, you can aerate it more by sucking more air into your mouth and through the tea. (This activates the flavours more.) In professional tastings, tasters spit the tea out after each sip, but once you have tasted the tea, it’s probably best to just swallow it.

Observe the Mouthfeel

Although this sounds weird and complex, it’s actually simple. It’s just the way the tea makes your mouth feel. Does it leave a creamy coating, like milk, or is it oily? Perhaps it’s like a rich broth… or is it thin and cleansing, like warm water? Does it create a puckery sensation on the tongue? After you have drunk the tea, does it leave your mouth feeling dry, moist or coated?

You can observe the mouthfeel during the first sip if you want, but I recommend noting the flavour first and then moving on to mouthfeel later.

Note the aftertaste

Some teas have very brief aftertastes. Others (especially some artisan oolongs) are known for aftertastes that can last for an hour or more. Some are simple, while others are complex and evolving. Sometimes, the aftertaste is identical to the tea. Sometimes, it’s completely different. Occasionally, I find that a tea has an even more enjoyable aftertaste than the flavour itself. Aftertastes can be fascinating components of the flavours and aromas of many teas.

To note the aftertaste, open your mouth slightly after you have swallowed a sip of tea. Allow air to flow between your mouth and nose. Observe not only the flavour, but also the scent that develops.

Observe the mental / physical Effects

Many tea drinkers report that different teas have completely different mental and physical effects on them. Generally speaking, people associate green teas with mental clarity and black teas with physical energy… but it’s different for everyone

text by Lindsey Goodwin, and edited