Some teas have such delicate and often complex taste and aroma that they whisper “Sip me!” These are what I call “sipper” teas (duh! pretty obvious). These teas are best experienced by letting them envelope your tastebuds in small amounts, giving you a chance to savor their flavor.
Perhaps a quick review of how we perceive taste would be helpful. No, I’m not a doctor, but this is so basic that even laymen like me with an Internet connection (or in my case, a college course in basic human biology) can find this out.
There are four taste sensations: bitter, salty, sweet, and sour. Your tongue is ringed by sensors (called “tastebuds”) that detect these. Some sensors detect sweet, others salty, and so on. Letting the tea travel around your tongue for a bit before swallowing will let it stimulate as many of these sensors as possible. It will also give time to let the tea’s fragrance rise to your nose, completing the experience before you let the liquid glide down your throat.
Pu-erh is definitely a “sipper” tea. Taking in a small amount and then letting it flow over your tongue will reveal the characteristics of its complex flavor. Maybe this should be called “patience tea” instead of “pu-erh.” You can do multiple infusions, too, with each infusion changing in character and taste.
Darjeeling is another great “sipper” tea. It has complexity of flavor combining fruity, floral, and often nutty taste notes in each drop of tea liquid. If you sip small amounts of the tea, hold them in your mouth a few seconds, and then swallow, you will taste first one flavor, then another, then another. Some call this “depth.”
Many Oolongs can be infused multiple times, assuming you are using teas comprised of full leaves or big leaf pieces from the tea plant (Camellia Sinensis). Each infusion will be subtly different in taste and deserve the sip treatment. Take in a little, let it travel around your tongue, and then swallow.
Try a Longjing tea from the Dragon Well area of China sometime. Just be sure to sip. You can enjoy each infusion at a leisurely pace, making your tea moment stretch out to a half hour, maybe more. (A couple of tips I want to pass along: store the tea in the refrigerator and away from humidity for up to 3 years; beware of imitations on the market that will cost less but be of lesser quality, too.)
Even herbals can stand up to the sip treatment. Lemongrass, with its buttery texture, is definitely a good choice. You won’t truly appreciate the feel in your mouth if you gulp this tasty beverage. Be kind to your tastebuds by sipping.
There are lots more choices. Basically, the more delicate and complex the tea, the more you get out of it by sipping.
Of course, if there are “sipper” teas, there must be “gulper” teas. But that’s another article. Enjoy!
For more great posts, visit A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!