Tea Tasting & Brewing

July 27, 2011

Tasting tea is just about as artful as tasting wine. Tea tasters have their own vocabulary; here’s your guide to tasting and trying new teas

Tasting tea is just about as artful as tasting wine. Tea tasters have their own vocabulary to describe and evaluate various teas; (which can get intimidating) so here’s your guide to tasting and trying new teas.

Terms include: aroma (the odor of the tea liquor); astringency (puckery sensation created by the reaction of tannins and protein in saliva); body (tactile sensation or weight), muscatel (characteristic found similar to grapes); full (possessing color, strength, substance and roundness); thick (has substance but not strength); thin/weak (lacking thickness and strength), and toasty (liquor of tea being overfired).

Brewing the perfect cup of tea is not as simplistic as it may seem; as a matter of fact, there are various opinions on that matter. Brewing the perfect cup usually involves the right combination of these seven factors:
The quality of the tea: use the best that is available to you The quality of the water: water makes up 90 percent of final product, so make sure it is of good quality. Tap water is fine as long as it tastes good by itself.
Do not use distilled water.
Correct measurement: general guideline is 1 rounded teaspoon per 8 oz. cup.
Correct steeping temperature: can vary depending on the type of tea, usually being higher for the stronger teas (black teas for example).
Correct steeping time: varies with the different types ranging from 2-3 minutes for white teas to 7-8 minutes for Puerh teas.
Allow the tea leaf to expand fully: the leaf should expand 3-5 times in size, so the pot should allow for such expansion.
Separating the leaf from the liquid at the end of the steeping process: the tea will tend to turn bitter if steeped too long.

What are some health benefits of tea? Tea has many health properties and an increasing number of studies show that the benefits of drinking tea are numerous. Besides being a refreshing drink with no calories, tea is a good source of manganese (essential for physical development) and potassium (maintains body’s fluid balance, an electrolyte). It is also packed with flavanoids, which are antioxidants that help combat free radicals. Studies also show that tea drinkers are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than non-drinkers.

The already famous flavanoids also demonstrate their ability to help prevent the oxidation of “bad” cholesterol, as well as protecting the blood vessels from inflammation and inhibiting blood clotting. Tea (especially black tea) is also a natural source of fluoride, which can help strengthen tooth enamel, and helps cut down plaque on teeth. Being a fluid, tea can help replace the lost fluids from the body on a daily basis. Tea does not have more caffeine than coffee; it contains about half the amount.

Today, tea is grown in Kenya, India, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Indonesia, Turkey, Iran, Tanzania, Malawi, Zaire, and Argentina.

So now that you know the tea basics, go grab yourself a cup!