Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Tea drinking is not just about the taste; it is more about the experience before, during and after drinking. Like any experience, you would want a good one, right? So key to the experience is the tea that you will be brewing and drinking. Judging, then, how good a tea is requires attention to detail.
Judging a tea involves the five senses. So let us start…
Look at the tea leaves before and after brewing. Whole leaves? Broken? Even-sized? Mixed with buds? Vibrant color or colors? Flat? Curved? Twisted? Rolled? Long? Short? Thin? Thick? How about the liquor? Is it clear? Clean and with good color? Are you drawn to it enough to want to taste it?
Squeeze the leaves with your fingers and listen to the sound. Is it crunchy?
Touch the leaves some more and appreciate the texture. Are the leaves smooth? Of course, you do not want sticky leaves.
Now, smell the leaves. What notes are you getting? Spicy, floral, fruity, earthy, vegetal, woody or aromatic? Does the aroma evoke a certain memory or emotion? Mineral and chemical notes are bad, as well as leaves that are rancid, damp or humid.
Brew and taste your tea. Does it taste good? Which of the basic tastes are you getting? Sweet? Bitter? Salty? Sour? Umami? Does it have a wide range of flavors? Does it have astringency? Is it fine like water? Creamy perhaps? Or velvety like butter?
After enjoying the entire experience of appreciating your tea using your five senses, how are you feeling? Are you happy? Calm? Relaxed? Alert? Energized? Do you want more?
So tea is not a “get and go” beverage. It is a “sit down, relax and enjoy” drink. Of course, it tastes even better when you drink it with someone you love. Enjoy the experience!
Reference: Tea Sommelier Handbook, Victoria Bisogno and Jane Pettigrew