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The art of Tea tasting

Like fine wines, there are literally hundreds of grades, qualities and varieties of tea on the market today. Teas are sampled by tasting experts, known as tea-tasters, at least five times before they reach you.

Tea tasting is a time-honored ritual, and one that we think you’ll enjoy! Experiment yourself, or invite your circle of friends for an evening tea-tasting party! After all, tea tasting is an art—not a science!



Tea tasting - Step by Step

First, lay the dry leaves in rows in small, individual containers on a “tasting bench.” Of course unless you’re an expert, your kitchen table will do!

Next, place an equal weight of each tea, (the British standard is 3 grams or one teaspoon) in special lidded brewing cups. Add boiling water, then cover. Regular cups with saucers on top will work for your purposes.

Place each “lidded” cup between an empty white china bowl and the container that holds the dry leaves of the sample. Any old bowl will do for you.

Brew very carefully, usually for 3 minutes.

Pour the brew into your tasting bowls, and put the infused leaf on the “lid” of your brewing cup so you can compare the leaves in the cover with the dry leaves, and with the tea itself.

Next, you’ll act just like a wine taster. Make sure your tea is cool enough not to burn your tongue. Slurp the tea sharply into your mouth so it hits your taste buds right away. Roll it around to assess the flavor, and then spit it out into a special “mobile spittoon.” Of course, you can just use a bowl, pot or even your sink. It’s not required that you spit out the tea, especially if you only taste a few.

Like the expert tea-tasters, evaluate each leaf’s color, shape and elasticity. Note its odor in the infusion, the tea’s aroma and color, and once it’s slightly cooled, its taste.


The language of Tea

In recording your observations, use the vocabulary of tea, which is pure poetry.

Like wine, a fine cup of tea is described by:

Its color: green, light green, olive green, amber, golden, brown, or reddish

Its flavor: flowery, round, aromatic, or sweet

Its liquor: limpid, crystalline, or brilliant

We at PLAIN-T selected some of the most used words from the vast vocabulary that tea-tasters use to describe infused teas. Try and experiment yourself! Choose some black teas, green teas or whichever you’d like and start tasting, exploring and comparing them. Before you know it, you’ll be describing teas in your own special way!


The Vocabulary of Tea:

Body - The quality and weight of tea on the tongue. It can be light, medium, full or wispy.

Brassy - Refers to liquor with a bitter taste.

Bright - Not dull in appearance. High quality.

Brisk - A lively taste from a well-oxidized, well-fired tea.

Chocolaty - A desirable flavor quality of fine Darjeelings.

Coarse - Bitter or overly acidic due to improper processing.

Colory – Special category teas with good colored liquor.

Dull - Muddy looking; the opposite of “bright.”

Flat - A tea that has a stale taste; found in old teas.

Flavory - With a distinctive taste.

Full-bodied - A combination of strength and color.

Greenish – An infusion with a bright green color. Not desirable, caused by under-rolling or under- fermentation.

Harsh - A bitter, raw taste with little strength.

Heavy - Full-bodied and low in briskness.

Malty - With a hint of malt. Found in well-made teas, especially Assam.

Mellow – Smooth, pleasant, easy.

Metalica - Coppery flavor, sharp.

Pungent - Astringent without being bitter.

Smooth - With a pleasant, rounded taste.

Soft – The opposite of “brisk,” caused by bad oxidation or firing.

Thin - A tea with little strength due to hard withering, under-rolling, or too high a temperature during rolling.

Tip – The very end of the delicate young buds that give golden flecks to the processed leaf.

Wiry – Well-twisted leaf, as opposed to open pieces.

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