Sensing Tea

What role do the five senses have on our perception of a cup of tea? Well, that depends. When it comes to several of the senses it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. It should go without saying (but we’ll say it anyway) that taste is the most important of these senses. The caffeine kick or the hydration that tea provides may be all that some people want, but for many of us tea is primarily about the taste.

There’s also smell, a sense that is obviously linked rather closely to taste. In addition to that more or less direct link, smell also plays a role in some of the processes that surround tea drinking. For instance, we can experience the smell of the dry leaves before they’re steeped and the aroma of the tea itself after the leaves have been steeped.

When it comes to the other three senses the link to tea is not quite as strong. Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems that the only real connection between between tea and touch is the sensation of the liquid on your mouth and tongue, a sensation that some describe as “mouthfeel.”

The visual aspect of tea drinking manifests itself primarily in aesthetic concerns – the appearance of the tea leaves and the finished product and the pleasing lines of assorted and sundry pieces of teaware. It’s possible that lighting might even have an influence on our enjoyment of tea, if we can safely transpose the results of this study on ambient light and wine tasting to the world of tea.

And, of course, let’s not forget sound. The biggest stretch of all might be to imagine that there is a link between tea drinking and sound. But a recent study that found that high levels of background noise might lower the sensitivity of the palate. Which is certainly something to keep in mind the next time you’re sipping tea in the middle of a runway and can’t figure out why it tastes a little off.

Don’t miss William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks!

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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