Like wine, tea tasting requires technique and knowledge. However, you don't have to be a tea connoisseur to appreciate or understand tea. The experience usually uses four basic steps: visual, touch, smell, and taste. If you enjoy drinking tea, you might want to learn how to comprehend its beautiful tasting notes properly.
Examining Your Tea
Before you begin to brew the tea, pay attention to the dry tea leaves and study them. How do they look? Take note of the size, color, and shape of the leaves: are the leaves whole? Or are they typically crushed and contain broken pieces? Do they have more stems than leaves? Generally, broken tea leaves and leaves with more stems will release more bitter tannins than whole leaf tea. Observing dry tea leaves can tell a lot about the plucking and processing journey of the tea. Notice the color of your tea leaves. White tea variants are usually covered in silver hair, whereas black teas have orange strands. Most green teas are jade-colored and are long in shape, while Oolong teas are commonly a little bit rounded and crumpled.
Touching the Leaves
When touching dry tea leaves, explore how they feel on your hands. High-quality dried tea leaves should feel smooth, whole, and sturdy. They shouldn't crumble or fall apart with gentle handling. It also should have a little weight in your hands—tea leaves that feel too light may be a sign of over-drying or getting old. Try pressing the leaves lightly—fresh tea will spring back, while old tea is more likely to disintegrate.
Before or after you drink your tea, bring the wet tea leaves close to your nose and take a deep breath in. High-quality tea leaves should emit a multi-layered fragrance profile that differs slightly with each whiff. They should be highly aromatic and amplify the extraordinary scents of tea leaves. If you're not sensing much aroma and find it flat-tasting, your tea leaves might be old or haven't been stored properly. However, tea leaves with an intense and "artificial" smell can indicate added fragrance.
Pleasing Your Palate
Once your tea is ready, take a sip of the tea while breathing in at the same time. Then, exhale through your nose while holding the liquor in your mouth. Tea experts usually perform this method to aerate the tea and enhance the flavors. Excellent tea should have a bold, recognizable taste and mouthfeel; the tea flavor should be enhancing with each inhalation. If the flavors are barely noticeable, overly bitter, or have an unpleasant chemical taste, you might be drinking a low-quality or old tea.
By paying close attention to the appearance, texture, aromas, and flavors of each tea, you can have a heightened tea experience and slowly develop your taste palate. These senses can be intensified and fine-tuned over time—the more tea you drink, the clearer your understanding of tea complexity will be.