Developing the ability to discern the nuances of tea flavors is a skill that can be acquired through practice and exploration. While some individuals possess a natural talent for tasting, the majority of us can enhance our taste buds by dedicating time to refining our sensory perceptions.
In China, professional tea tasters are revered for their expertise and earn a lucrative income by indulging in the daily ritual of tea drinking. Behind their success lies relentless study and unwavering dedication. If you believe you have the potential, you too can aspire to reach their level of mastery.
To embark on this sensory journey, it’s essential to cultivate the habit of taking detailed tasting notes. Here, I will share my personal tea-tasting process and provide you with valuable insights:
Step 1 – Observe the Dry Leaves:
Before delving into the tasting experience, take a moment to examine the appearance of the dry tea leaves. Are they whole or broken? Do you notice tender buds among the leaves? These visual cues offer initial hints about the tea’s quality and characteristics.
Step 2 – Inhale the Aroma of the Dry Leaves:
Unlocking the scents hidden within the dried leaves can be challenging but rewarding. Pre-heat a Gaiwan or brewing vessel by rinsing it with hot water. Then, place the green tea leaves inside and gently shake the vessel. The heat activates the aromatic compounds, releasing captivating fragrances unique to each tea.
Step 3 – Brew the Tea:
Following the brewing instructions provided by the seller is crucial, especially for beginners. In the absence of specific guidelines, researching equivalent teas online can help determine ideal brewing parameters. Pay attention to the aroma emanating from the leaves as they steep in the water.
Step 4 – Observe the Liquor:
Carefully observe the brewed tea’s appearance. What color does it exhibit? Is it clear or cloudy? Take note of any aromas that arise from the liquid. Do they align with the fragrance of the dry leaves or present new elements? These observations provide valuable insights into the tea’s quality and value.
Step 5 – Experience the Taste:
Finally, the moment arrives to savor the tea. Take a sip, allowing the tea to envelop your entire palate. Swish it gently in your mouth to fully explore its flavors. Professional tasters often spit out the tea, as they evaluate numerous samples simultaneously.
Focus on the taste profile. Does the tea feel thin or possess a thick, syrupy texture? Are there any astringent or puckering sensations? Tea flavors are multi-layered, with certain notes manifesting immediately and others lingering in the finish. Exhaling after a sip helps reveal those lingering flavors. Consider the overall sensation the tea evokes. Does it ground you or transport you to another realm? Exploring the emotional connection to tea enhances the enjoyment of the experience.
Remember, there are no right or wrong answers to tea tasting. Each person’s experience is unique. Tasting tea with friends can be enlightening, as you exchange notes and discover diverse perceptions of identical teas.
If you’re new to the world of tea tasting, I invite you to share your advice and insights in the comments section. Let’s embark on this delightful journey together!