The Beginners Guide to Tea Tasting

Posted by Very Craftea on

As with wine, tea is described in the same sort of way. There are tea sommeliers, tasting notes, guides, books - which can be quite overwhelming and maybe might be a bit scary

But fear not! I'm here to give you the basics so you can wow your friends with your new knowledge. Who knows, it might come up on a pub quiz (I know there was something in a crossword that my friend did!)

So lets start

Origins

Tea comes from all over the world, from various countries. It encounters so many people and processes along the way. These are the exotic and far flung lands from where your tea is lovingly grown and harvested.

China - Keemun, Lapsang, Oolong

India - Assam, Chai, Darjeeling  

Japan - Matcha, Sencha

Sri Lanka - Ceylon

Tea Terms

Tea - all teas, whether they are black, green, white - are all from the plant camellia sinensis. They are just processed in a different way

Tisane - anything which doesn't contain leaves from camellia sinensis should technically be called a tisane. These can be fruit or herbal infusions

CTC - this stands for Cut-Tear-Curl. It's the process of when tea leaves are shredded and normally goes into tea bags 

Flush - refers to the timing of the tea harvest

Grading - the grading system ensures tea leaves are sifted and searched through to ensure the highest quality

Liquor - sounds alcoholic, but is another word for the water after brewing with tea leaves

Different Types of Tea

There are six different types of tea:

Black - the most traditional and the one everyone has heard of. You'll find it in English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchang. It's fully oxidised to give it's dark appearance and strong flavour

Green - is heated as soon as the leaves are plucked to prevent oxidisation, giving it it's trademark vegetal flavour

Oolong - it's a mix between a green tea and a black tea, meaning they are partly oxidised. These are also hand rolled, full leaves and look gorgeous when brewed 

White - is made from a leaf, which is just picked, dried and that's it. This is the purest tea you can get. It has a very light and floral flavour

Pu'erh - grown in Yunnan province in China, and have an earthy character which is gained over months and years of ageing. These are collected and can be worth loads of money

Yellow - is super rare and only grown in China. I've only ever tried this once. It has a pale yellow liquor and a sweet flavour

Smell

So now you know the basic tea terms and what different types of tea there are, now we can get on to sniffing it!

Aroma - obviously the most important thing. If it smells good, then it's going to be a good cuppa

Nose - it's fancy term used by tea experts. Basically if it is said to have a good nose then the tea is good

Tarry - this means the smokey smell you have with some teas. You'd recognise it from Lapsang Souchong

Woody - it's like walking in a forest and you'll expect that from black teas 

Taste

Now, this is the best bit - the taste! You can't beat that first sip of tea in the morning, or afternoon or anytime actually! There are lots of ways to describe tea, but try these ones to get started:

Flavour - there are a few categories to describe the different tastes and flavours: Vegetal, Fruity, Floral, Sweet, Spicy, Nutty and Smokey. These categories have sub-categories to describe the different combination of flavours, such as:

  • Citrus
  • Leather
  • Earthy
  • Grassy
  • Metallic
  • Seaweed,
  • Smokey
The list goes on and on. You can see all the different categories and subcategories on the Tea Aroma Wheel

Full Bodied - you'll have heard this when describing wine. This means a strong tea with good colour and no bitterness. A prime example of this is my China Keemun

Muscatel - this is another one from the wine world. It means that the tea that has a similar flavour to grapes. It's usually associated with second flush Darjeeling teas

I hope this is helpful. Pop a comment below if there's anything else you'd like to know about lovely tea!

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