Proper Tea Tasting Techniques
Tea tasting, much like wine tasting, cheese tasting or any other sampling of a food or beverage, includes utilizing all five of your senses and focusing on how the experience feels to you personally.
By using your sense of smell, sight, taste and touch, you can not only evaluate teas accurately, but you can improve the experience of enjoying the tea that you are brewing. You may also decide to hold tea tasting parties amongst friends for fun, or even pursue a career as a professional tea taster for a large tea factory.
There are four main points to consider when evaluating the quality of a tea during a tea tasting; the dry leaves, the unfurled (spent) leaves, the aroma of both of these, and of course the most important aspect to consider – flavor.
When examining the dry leaves, consider their aroma, their appearance, and the way they feel. One can tell a lot about a tea from simply examining the dry tea leaves, saving yourself from purchasing low quality teas in some tea shops.
How do they smell? How do they feel? Newer teas are slightly springier while older teas are crumbly. Usually the older the tea, the more crumbly they are. The tea leaves should be actual leaves without any stalks, fibers or dust. Look for leaves which are shiny and fresh, without any dullness or uneven coloring.
The unfurled, spent leaves look like beautiful completely whole leaves in higher quality teas. Sometimes the brewed leaves can even be eaten in recipes as an appetizers. But the spent leaves also often reflect the quality of the tea, and the aroma of the leaves and the brewed tea are also important to the overall impression of the tea.
Finally, it is above everything else, important to consider the flavor of the brewed tea. Everything else you consider in a tea is only a good indication of what you can expect from a tea, however the flavor of the tea is the main point in evaluating a tea.
When officially taste testing a tea, bring a spoonful of the warm tea to your lips and slurp in the tea in a manner that it covers the entire tongue, then gently swirl the tea around in your mouth. Suck in air in short bursts in your mouth to be able to sense the more delicate characteristics of the tea, as well as it’s subtle undertones.
When you have evaluated all of these points, it is a good idea to record your impressions in a tea notebook. As your knowledge of tea expands, so will your ability to characterize teas based on your initial evaluations of it’s appearance, aroma and flavor.