Tea reviewing is not exactly rocket science. In fact, I sorta dove into reviewing teas head first when a tea company sent me some samples and then this competing company found out and said, “Hey, would you like to try our teas?” So, I said like “Sure, why not?” And then, so, like, they sent me some samples and then I reviewed them and people read them and other tea vendors started sending samples and…
Uh, well, you get the idea.
In reality, tea reviews have an anatomy similar to the human body, with its major systems. At least, that’s my theory.
Head = Planning & Knowledge
In your anatomy, your head is where your brain resides — you know, that mass of “little grey cells” (as fictional sleuth Hercule Poirot calls it) in your skull. It thinks, reasons, works things out, but also hates, loves, and processes sensory input (taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch).
In a tea review, this is the planning part. Tea samples arrive. (These could be ones you buy — lots of vendors offer sample sizes these days — or that the vendor sends gratis.) Time to do a bit of studying. Examine the package of each sample to be sure it is intact and airtight. Check to see if any of the teas should be used right away. Some delicate white and green teas, for example, have fairly short shelf lives. Then, check into how to steep the tea for best effect. Many vendors put basic information on the sample package (water temperature and steeping time) and more detailed information on their web site. If you will not be trying the teas right away, store the samples in an appropriate place. Hopefully, this will be short-term storage until you can do a properly set up taste test.
This is also the sensory processing part. You will be tasting, smelling, seeing. It can take some time and effort and trying a bunch of teas to start discerning some of the finer differences. At least, it has for me and my dearest hubby, who has been as involved in the tea tastings as I have.
Torso = Equipment
The torso supports the head and houses your essential parts (heart, stomach, etc.). Your equipment is the main body of your tea review and digests (steeps) the tea. You will want to do a bit of research on the vendor’s site or on blogs like this one to determine how to prepare the tea in accordance with the vendor’s recommendations or the advice of others who have tried the same or a similar tea (after awhile, you will have sufficient knowledge to judge for yourself what water temperature, steeping time, teawares, etc., will be needed). Then, you will want to decide what teawares to use. Frankly, for hubby and me this has gotten more and more complicated, especially now that we have our our “Tea Gang” (a small collection of teapots and a wonderful steeping mug) from which to choose.
Just like the human torso, regular workouts/tea tastings will develop your connoisseur muscles. (This also works for the following two items, also.)
Arms & Legs = Actions
Arms and hands are used to do things: lift, carry, pour, wash, etc. Legs transport you: from the sink where you fill the kettle with fresh water to the stove to heat the water; from the stove to the teapot; from the kitchen with the tray with the full teapot and the treats to the dining room table to serve your tea time guests.
When it comes to tea tastings, the arms and legs are the actions: heating water, steeping, lifting cups to lips, and so on. Without these actions, there is no tasting — duh! Water doesn’t put itself into the kettle. Tea leaves don’t put themselves into the teapot, gaiwan, kyusu, etc. The steeped liquid does not pour itself. Sorry if this seems self-evident, but amazingly enough there are folks out there who need to hear it said.
The Whole Picture
Put all of the above together, and you will have a successful and complete tea tasting. And whatever you do, don’t let some sassy teapot take over and start running the show (yes, it happens!).
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