A Tea Addict's Journal

What are you tasting?

October 24, 2009 · 1 Comment

On Thursday for class I brought in some of my testing sets, and went about showing my students how you might test for different teas when you’re a buyer.  We were talking about the commodification of tea, coffee, etc, and this, I thought, would be an interesting way to show some of the things that go on behind the scenes, so to speak.

This is the second brewing already, as the first one was consumed and commented on.  The one on the right is Yunnan Gold, the one in the middle a Darjeeling, and on the left, an Assam.  I figured it’s probably better to use different kinds of teas, so to highlight the differences, rather than going for, say, two or three stripes of Keemun that are difficult to tell apart if you don’t know what you’re drinking.

The “not knowing what you’re drinking” is quite a common thing though.  I noticed, for example, that many times their reactions are very different from mine. First of all, the teas were all intensely bitter to them, while for me it was really only true for one of the teas.  The nuances that we generally taste are not detectable to others, because the bitterness is overwhelming.  It’s quite interesting actually, because these are things you no longer realize or think about when you’re drinking tea all the time.

I do think sometimes that when we get picky about teas, we’re really chasing a never ending tunnel of taste.  As we get more experience drinking and achieve a better level of judgment in our ability to differentiate tastes, we demand more of our tea.  That, in turn, means that tea growers and sellers will try to satisfy this desire with more interesting products, but ultimately, it can only get worse and worse over time.  Whereas a newcomer to tea might be entirely satisfied by a good assam, I’m not sure I can be, at least on a daily basis.  That’s why sometimes when I find a tea I particularly like, I will now buy lots of it, for fear that I will no longer see it and run out.  This, of course, contributes to a large stash of tea sitting around, which will take forever to finish.  This is the joy of tea drinking.

Anyway, sorry for the long delays in update.  Life teaching is quite busy, so not much time to post….

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1 response so far ↓

  • jasonwitt // November 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Reply

    This is the reason I’ve decided to go with just sampling Puerh whenever possible. Some are just not available in amounts as small as about an oz or 25 g so I will consider a larger amount of them. But I’ve gotten past the point where I want to commit to any tea just because I fancied it at one time. It’s exciting enough for me to just be able to always try new teas.

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