Being able to smell all the delicate nuances in dry tea leaves is a wonderful thing. Too bad I can’t selectively block out other smells around me during a tea tasting. Unlike tea companies that have rooms dedicated to tasting tea and that therefore have an environment free of extraneous olfactory stimulants, hubby and I have our kitchen, where we also prepare our meals.
One of the worst offenders to my sensitive sniffer is the small of eggs. Whether fried, scrambled, or poached, eggs leave a strong odor in the air for hours after. Bacon is another one, which is a challenge for us since we love bacon and eggs for breakfast and then have a day of enduring the lingering aromas, especially if the weather outside does not allow us to open our windows. Hubby and I do our best. We wash, dry, and put away pots and pans used to cook odiferous foods. We have fans going to get smells lingering from lunch or breakfast out of the air. We have found, also, that baking scones or biscuits as part of our breakfast seems to absorb a lot of the bacon and eggs aroma.
As if cooking odors weren’t enough of a distraction, there is also the accidental introduction of tastes and aromas from things around us in the kitchen, especially plastic things, which tend to absorb odors. One day hubby and I were doing a tasting of a tea sample and ended up inadvertently introducing a fragrance into the tea liquid from an unexpected source.
When hubby and I try a new tea, and then write up our experience, we often do more than one steeping from the same leaves. Oolongs, greens, whites, and even some black teas can be steeped more than once. It assures more value for your tea dollars when you can get four, five, six, or more steepings from those leaves. We usually steep up two cups of liquid per infusion and don’t quite drink all of the liquid from one infusion before the next is ready (especially for those teas that are steeped very short times — 30 to 60 seconds), meaning that we end up with around a cup of liquid left from each and need to keep them separate. We also like to put a lid on each as a precaution to block out stray odors. That’s where the problem came up.
We were doing a third steep of the tea sample, so the leftover liquid from the first and second steep were put into open-topped containers. Not wanting the teas to absorb any odors around us, we used a plastic lid on the first one and a saucer as a lid on the second one. Later, when we lifted that plastic lid on the first tea infusion and sniffed — ugh! — it smelled like rice noodles!
Now, there are teas that are supposed to taste like scallops and some like seaweed (kelp), and still others that are said to be grassy or planty or raisiny or fruity. But I have yet to see a tea that is supposed to naturally smell and/or taste like rice noodles. Plus, this tea did not have that quality before it had sat under that plastic lid. Clearly, something had affected it. I poured a little in a sipping cup and sipped — no rice noodle taste. I lifted the plastic cover off of the container again and got a whiff of rice noodle smell. Quite a mystery. Then, like someone turning on the light in a dark room, it hit me! The smell was on the plastic lid (it had been used to help me prepare some instant rice noodles)! Argh! Even after a thorough washing!
Happily, the tea liquid was not affected. But since that experience, I have been more careful in my choice of lids for the extra tea liquid (which we drink when the tasting is done).
The saga of the sensitive sniffer goes on!
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