What I learnt at my first ever tea tasting
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Tea is an emotionally territorial beverage, and the way you brew and drink your tea is a personal preference that might not be shared.
Tea tasting is a skill that comes in handy when you want to buy a specific kind of tea – to sell or to drink.
For there are limitless varieties of teas and it’s not easy to tell one apart from the other without elaborate tasting notes to convey their individual qualities.
This week, I was lucky enough to attend my first ever tea tasting masterclass with tea brands Tetley and Laager to learn more about tea tasting, and how to prepare it.
Held virtually, master tea blender Jonathan Kelsey gave us a session about the sensory analysis of the beverage.
I am not a big tea lover, but I do enjoy tea before I sleep, or in the morning. What I love about tea is that there are so many varieties of tea available, and everything from varietal, region, harvest, drying methods, mixing all contribute to the flavour - sort of like wine.
At the masterclass, Kelsey introduced us to different kinds of aromas and tastes, and all the many other things associated with tea tasting.
Our first assignment was to agree on basic flavours. Tetley’s Earl Grey Tea was my personal favourite.
It is made from black tea leaves with natural bergamot oil to give it its distinct citrusy aroma perfect for a chilly morning.
Another favourite was the Elaichi Chai flavour which incorporates the popular and aromatic cardamom spice.
Ingrained in Indian culture, Chai is enjoyed everywhere from the roadsides to top-class establishments and is traditionally prepared by boiling milk together with spices and sweetening with sugar.
Kelsey said Chai tea is incredibly versatile and is best enjoyed traditionally – pop your teabag in a cup, add hot water and brew for 3 to 5 minutes, add lots of milk, and sweeten with sugar or honey.
He said that properly preparing the tea you are about to taste is crucial. Interestingly, preparing tea for a formal tasting is quite different from your normal home preparation.
Here’s what you will want to do:
For your tea tasting, measure out double the amount of tea you would normally sip, or just use half the water.
Heat your water. Here, you’ll want to be careful about what temperature your water reaches. Basic guidelines are:
White and green teas: these delicate leaves can’t handle too much heat, or else they end up singed with a bitter, burnt flavour, so steep at temperatures.