Professional Tea Tasting

In order to identify the exclusive individual characteristics and traits of the various types of tea, the tea merchants and the professional tea tasters arrange professional tea tastings at which strict procedures are observed. The stages of a tea tasting are as follows:

  • The tea tasting takes place around a tasting table which is laden with bowls of dry tea leaves. This allows the tea tasters to touch and feel the leaves and also to observe their appearance before brewing.
  • In the next stage an amount of tea leaves weighing about 2.8 grams is put into an kettle with a capacity of 150 ml. for brewing. Boling water is poured onto the tea leaves and the kettle is covered to allow brewing which takes about six minutes.
  • The tea liqueur is poured into the tasting cups and the infused leaves are taken out and displayed for inspection before the tasting itself takes place.
  • The expert tea tasters move around the table, take one tea sample after another with a teaspoon, sip it into their mouths and then slurp or move the tea over their entire palates and mouths for smooth and consistent tasting and to allow them to gain the maximum tasting impression.
  • After tasting each tea the tasters spit the tea liqueur into spittoons.

Professional tea tasting is done without any additives such as sugar, milk or other. The purpose of the tasting is to distinguish the elements of taste and smell. In special tastings for the British consumer, a fixed amount of milk is added to the brewed tea to determine how well the tea mixes with the milk.

After the tasting is performed, a wide range of additives may be added to the tea according to personal taste, the brewing time may be shortened or increased, the amount of tea leaves brewed may be increased or decreased and the tea may be sweetened with sugar or honey.

On The Similarities Between Tea And Wine

Both tea and wine are drinks steeped in tradition of many years concerning their production and drinking and both of them have had considerable economic, social and cultural impact. In recent years the two drinks have enjoyed ever increasing popularity thanks largely to the growing trend towards a healthy, balanced, aware and informed lifestyle alongside the customer’s wish to identify and appreciate quality and to enjoy himself.

Tea and wine have many things in common, such as:

  • They are both drinks that are made from plants and as such they are greatly influenced by the geographic area in which they are grown, by changes in the earth they are grown in and by changes in climate. Their quality and taste are greatly affected by the processes they go through in their production.
  • There has developed around the industry of tea, just as in the world of wine, a whole profession of experts and tasters who are able to distinguish the fine nuances of variations in the types of tea and to produce new blends of tea as well as to categorize and classify teas according to the quality grades of teas with exquisite skill.
  • Tea and wine are both ceremonial drinks. They are both attended by a series of precise rules or procedures starting from methods of storage, the ways of preparation or pouring, and ending with the correct ways of drinking them. They are preserved in special containers some of which are truly artistic creations. Similarly to tea, also the tasting of wine is accompanied by special instruments and accessories used only for this purpose.
  • Both tea and wine are drinks which create a special atmosphere and affect the mood of the persons drinking them. Both of them are related to social events and celebrations, and sometimes to intimate personal meetings.
  • Further similarities between them concern the widespread acquaintance with the various types of these drinks, with the regions in which they are grown, with the methods of their preparation and manufacture, with their history and with the legends that surround them. Such knowledge serves to enhance the pleasure obtained in drinking them.
  • Many scientific research studies attest to the efficacy of the two drinks as health remedies . While the welcome benefits of drinking wine depend on moderate consumption of wine, there are no similar limits for the consumption of tea (for most of the population).

Glossary Of Terms From The Lexicon Of The Tea Taster

Tea experts and professional tea tasters use a vocabulary of words covering hundreds of concepts in order to describe the appearance, taste and aroma of tea. Some of the most important are:

Agony of leaves
The rolling and unfurling of the leaves up and down in the cup at the time of steeping that is when boiling water is poured on them

Aroma
The fragrant smell of the dry tea leaves, the leaves in infusion and of the brewed tea itself. Good aromas are described as flowery or fruity. The dry leaves and the infused leaves have an aroma characteristic of the region in which the tea was grown or of the tea house that manufactured the tea.

Astringency
The feeling of tingling and dry sensation created in the mouth of the drinker by teas rich in polyphenols

Bakey
An undesirable characteristic usually arising from drying the leaves at too high a temperature

Bergamot
The "Chinese Orange" bergamot is a citrus fruit shaped like a pear, which originated in China but is today grown in Italy, and the essence of which is used to flavor Earl Grey Tea

Body
This expresses the weight of the drink on the tongue, the strength of taste and the feeling of fullness in the mouth. It is graded from light to full.

Bright
This denotes a leaf that is bright or light in color and an expectation of a taste that is refreshing and alive and gives a feeling of astringency to the tongue. This is a desirable characteristic of choice tea.

Brisk
this describes a tea that is full and lively on the tongue and that has been properly fermented and dried.

Chesty
Tea leaves having an after taste or smell from the wooden chest in which the tea was packed

Colory
categorization for tea that has a good color

Creaming Down
This describes tea where particles float or rise to the top of the tea in some types of black tea or blended teas. This is considered undesirable and is likely to be caused by the use of poor water.

Dull
The drink looks murky and is of a low quality

Firing
Drying the tea leaves by way of hot air or in a wok in order to quickly halt the process of fermentation

Flat
Tea of poor taste and flat and of a low quality. This indicates old tea or tea that is not fresh. It can also be caused by improper storage.

Flavory
possesses a distinct specific taste

Flowery
A concept that describes whole tea leaves that have light colored tips

Fruity
The fruity characteristic of choice Oolong Tea

Gone off
Tea without taste or life or that has a bad smell

Muddy
This describes a dull infusion lacking in taste

Musty
The brew has a moldy taste or smell which is due to improper packing or storage.

Orange Pekoe
This term describes a large whole leaf tea

Pekoe
Derived from the Chinese word that describes the white hairs on the side of the leaves of certain teas. The term denotes small, whole leaf tea.

Peak
This is the magical moment when the body, the taste, the aroma and the astringency of the tea combine to in the mouth to create an ecstatic feeling. This mainly relates to the black teas rather than green tea or Oolong tea

Plucking
Picking of the tea.

Pungent
Strong tea with a presence

Self drinking
Tea that is good in itself and does not need to be blended or to have any additions lemon added

Smooth
describing tea possessing a smooth pleasant taste.