If you’ve ever had the misfortune to drink tea while you have a cold, you’ve probably discovered a simple truth: even the best tea in the world is no good unless you can taste it properly. Professional tea tasters use a strict set of procedures to make sure that they can do their job effectively, and it may take years for these pros to train the palate to appreciate all the many and varied nuances of tea. If you doubt that this is serious business, then consider that South African researchers have isolated a total of 27 descriptive attributes just for rooibos, a tea-like herbal beverage produced in that country.
If you’ve ever tasted tea after eating spicy food, you’ll also understand why tea tasters tend to refrain from eating these foods, smoking, or doing anything else that might dull their sensitive taste buds. What you may not realize is that there are some other, less known factors that can have an effect on your ability to taste effectively.
According to a study by British researchers at the University of Manchester, background noise can have a significant effect on our taste buds. In their tests with 48 volunteers they piped white noise at different levels through headphones while feeding the test subjects various types of foods. Qualities like saltiness or sweetness were affected negatively by louder noise levels but crunchiness was enhanced. Read more about this research here and here.
If all of this doesn’t give you enough to keep track of while drinking your tea, then consider some findings by a group of German researchers. Their test subjects rated wines higher when the drinkers were exposed to red or blue ambient light while drinking than if they were exposed to green or white light.
While neither of these studies relate specifically to tea, it’s probably safe to say that, if you want the best tea drinking experience, it wouldn’t hurt to eliminate as much background noise as possible and infuse the room with a nice, relaxing red or blue light. Which sounds like a great idea even if you’re not going to be exercising your taste buds.
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