We've been having a blast over here tasting new teas from this spring. It's a process full of precision and personal preference, and the perfect break to the work day! If you're curious about the tea tasting process, it's comparable to wine tasting. And just as fun to do with friends! It goes something like this... We steep up the teas according to their type, sip, discuss, sip, and discuss, using all sorts of creative descriptors. We first compare similar teas, finding the best picks within each category. Then we compare the range of our favorites to narrow it down to an exceptional and well-balanced array of teas, and occasionally find a "best in show" that we all fall in love with, despite our individual pallets.
Typically, tasters use a teaspoon to slurp up a sample of tea from each cup, then spit each slurp into a spittoon, never actually swallowing the tea. And when I say slurp, I mean *ssslllurp!*, because the action allows you to coat your mouth with the tea getting the full viscous feel or "mouth coat" and also adds oxygen to the mix which highlights different flavors of the tea. Some teas even are graced with a double slurp, where the second slurp aids in cooling the tea, further embelishing certain flavors.
Here, however, we usually don't spit it out (especially when the tea is a serious crowd pleaser) and we also do a non-conventional variety of sipping, slurping, and gulping of the teas when they're hot and as they cool. The reason for this is that some teas are exceptional while they're hot then fade into boring dishwater as they cool, and we take note of these guys. Let's face it - we all want to enjoy the entire cup of tea, not just the first part. So at the end, after discussing the flavor profiles and taking tasting notes, we divvy up the remaining teas, trying to give people the remaining cup of their personal favorites. I also want to note the precision with which we steep the teas during tastings, with special care given to the amount of tea leaves used, the temperature of the water, and the steeping time - these variable can dramatically change the flavor profiles of each tea. This is when I seriously get my thermometer out. And bonus points are given to teas that are less sensitive to "precise" steeping conditions - as some are more forgiving than others - making them more foolproof to steeping accidents. For example, our Green Roasted Mint tea is nearly impossible to mess up while steeping, with regards to both water temperature and steeping time. This tea is more than forgiving to the absentminded and multitaskers, myself included. (fyi, it's discounted 20% this week!) However, other, more sensitive, teas are also given due respect around here and sipped with pleasure after careful steeping, or sometimes tossed with remorse after poor steeping ;) In any case, let us know your own tea tasting rituals and latest favorites!