Tea is such a complex drink. There are so many different kinds of teas and different flavors which make the drink unique. One thing I used to struggle with is how to distinguish individual flavors in teas, sometimes I would drink tea and think, “Honestly, it just tastes like black tea.” But, being a tea lover, I could not take that as an answer. So, I tried to be better and learn how to identify different notes in tea. Here are my tips and tricks!
1) Research! Research! Research!
Start researching teas. The more you know about the tea and how it is grown and processed, the knowledge can only assist you in figuring out what this tea should taste like. This seems like a silly and easy example, but imagine you are tasting Lapsang Souchong. By name alone, you probably would not figure out what this tea will taste like (unless you know the meaning of the name, but let’s assume you are new to this tea). Looking up this tea would lead you to the answer that it is a smoked black tea. After researching this tea a bit more, you would find that the tea is usually from the Fujian Providence in China and is traditionally smoked over pinewood.
All of this research would help guide you to the fact that this tea should have a smokey, tanniny flavor. Again, this is a very simple and obvious example, but knowing the history or traditions around a tea could help you figure out what the tea should be tasting like.
2) Visualize! Reviews! Visualize!
My brother was talking about how to taste notes in whiskey, and he said that sometimes he looks up reviews on whiskey while he is drinking and tries to identify the unique notes while drinking it. This also works for tea. By visualizing what others are tasting, then it might be able to open up your mind to the different flavors of tea. Many times there have been ingredients that I am not familiar with, so I go online and look up what the ingredient tastes like in tea and how to identify that. Next time, I won’t have to look up that ingredient, I will just know it. Looking at similar tea tea-reviews would also help, aka teas with similar ingredients, because you can read what others taste and compare it with what you taste.
I have had many teas where I can only identify a couple of notes, and then I look on the back to see the ingredients and am shocked by what I am not able to taste, Sometimes taking a look at the ingredients can help you identify what you might be tasting but cannot put your finger on.
3) Join a Tea Class
When sitting down the other day with a fellow tea Instagrammer (@chailogy_lab), she explained a class she had just finished up where she learned more about teas, their origins, and how certain teas taste. The class actually sent her teas and equipment along assigning her homework. She then learned about teas, their steeping times, and different notes in different teas. When I have time, this is definitely something that I want to do as well. But these classes, some are actually quite inexpensive, would definitely up your tea game and make you even more knowledgable about the teas you consume on the daily.
Do you consider yourself an expert tea taster? What tips do you have for me or anyone reading this? Let me know in the comments! I would love to increase my knowledge as well. Happy Brewing!