Learning to evaluate tea (or examine and taste it as the experts do), is not difficult.
However, it will require the use of all your senses, except hearing!
The 7 step process:
- Visual appearance of the dry tea leaf. It must generally be uniform in colour and size.
- The touch and feel of the dry leaf. Not too dried out or crumbly.
- Aroma of the leaf – fresh not stale and must reinforce the character of the tea.
- The colour and appearance of the infusion (the liquor), generally bright in colour.
- Aroma of the infused tea – fresh, pleasant and display the characteristics of the tea.
- Appearance, shape and the colour of the infused (or wet) leaf.
- Finally and most importantly the taste and flavour. Slurping and swilling is allowed.
Of course the type of tea being evaluated will determine many of the characteristics. A single estate Darjeeling tea will be very different to a strong blend of Ceylon tea.
You can use this process for testing the best quality leaf teas as well as for tea bags. Tear a couple of teabags up and evaluate the tea in them. Better still compare the various teabags on offer and see if they meet the claims they make.