Tea tasting pros have some specialized equipment. Photos show up online all the time of long rows of white tasting sets, making them the most well-known. Long have I been salivating (no, not literally!) over these photos showing “tasting set troops” lined up and ready for inspection (of the teas) and for steeping and tasting (of the teas).
These pro tea tasting sets consist of a handled cup where a portion of the lip opposite the cup handle is serrated to serve as a strainer, a lid that can be turned upside down and set on the cup with the tea leaves piled on it after steeping, and a tasting bowl for inhaling the aroma of and sipping the tea. These sets are almost always in white so you can really see the color of the tea. You put tea leaves in the cup, add water heated to the appropriate temperature for the tea you are tasting, put the lid on the cup, and let the tea steep. When it’s done, you can pour the tea into the tasting bowl through the serrated part of the cup rim, put the spent leaves on the lid (enjoying the sight of them before and after steeping is part of the fun), and then enjoy the tea liquid.
My equipment is a bit less professional, meaning that I experience the tea more like a regular tea drinker would. It’s also what I am used to at this time, but someday…aahh!
I have a special 2-cup teapot for steeping (known to many of you as that Little Yellow Teapot) and two little sipping cups for hubby and me to taste the liquid. I also use two small white bowls to photograph both the dry and the spent tea leaves, the difference being quite remarkable on some teas such as Spring Pouchong (my review).
Other options exist, too, for equipping your tea tasting adventure. You can go the gaiwan or kyusu route especially for green teas, or some teas like oolongs seem to infuse best in a yixing teapot. If the tea you’re tasting is a British or American favorite like a breakfast blend, a Kenyan blend, or an Assam, you can stick with a tried and true ceramic or bone china teapot to steep in and enjoying in a nice teacup and saucer, always in style.
Whatever your choice, you can have a wonderful tea tasting experience even without those professional tasting sets. Enjoy!
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