Tea tasting notes
Tea connoisseurs know that no tea tastes the same. There are subtle flavours and aromas to savour, from sweet to spicy and citrusy.
Like grapes, the more premium loose-leaf teas will vary according to their region, varietal and harvesting, processing and blending methods. If other ingredients like fruits, herbs and spices are added to the tea blend, it will naturally affect the flavour and aroma. Tea preparation will also affect your tasting experience. Some regard the teapot as an important tool to achieving the best results.
Materials like porcelain and iron can retain heat and glass pots release heat, making it a better option for delicate teas like green tea.
In general, one level teaspoon of tea leaves serves 150-180ml (a small tea cup) of hot water, and more is needed for teapots. Steeping tea at the correct temperature and brewing time is vital. If water is too hot, it can scald the tea and if too cold it will only produce bland tea. The best temperature is just as the water starts to boil. Green tea brewing temperature is lower, at steaming stage. Also note the recommended time to infuse tea: some herbal or botanical teas can take as long as 15 minutes to brew.
Recognising these flavours can be elusive and yet exciting to explore. In general teas can be floral, nutty, buttery, sweet, spicy, smoky, fruity or oceanic. They either remind you of flowers like jasmine and roses but they can also be sweet (vanilla, honey, caramel), smoky (leather, tobacco) or spicy (cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg). Oceanic notes are typically found in Japanese green teas (seaweed, shellfish aromas). Minerals like chalk and granite can be found in some teas, while elements of roasted nuts, grass, earthy mushrooms and fruits and vegetables may be present in others.
Black tea tasting notes
Black tea tends to be full-bodied Earthy, fruity, smoky
Green tea tasting notes
Green tea contains glutamate, an amino acid responsible for a savoury umami taste (very satisfying) Sweet, grassy, herbaceous, oceanic
White tea tasting notes
Typically light and delicate Floral, sweet, buttery, herbaceous
Oolong tea tasting notes
Similar to black and green teas Floral, mineral, buttery, fruity, grassy
Pu-erh tea tasting notes
This tea is fermented and aged Rich, earthy, smoky
Herbal tea tasting notes
Herbal teas are not considered ‘true’ teas as they are not made directly from the Camellia sinensis tea plant. Herbal and botanical teas range widely from floral to herbaceous and more robust flavours.
It’s all about exploring these basics and honing your own tea tasting notes. Many of these sensory experiences are deeply personal and evocative. Although there are guidelines and recommendations, the best way is to experiment with different types of tea. There really is no right or wrong way to brew and savour your tea.