Preparation is often a good thing and just as often a necessity. That also goes for preparing your palate for lighter tasting teas — especially true for those used to black tea, finding lighter tasting teas unpalatable and tasteless. It’s all in your head. You can change this, though.
I’ve talked about expectations before, where you’re trying a tea for the first time and have read a description from somewhere online — a tea review site, the vendor’s site, or even Twitter or Facebook — and so approach the tea from that viewpoint. Past experience and “accustomization” also play roles, where you are used to certain flavor profiles and aren’t quite prepared for the onslaught of this new flavor profile. Often, with lighter tasting teas, a palate that is used to the stronger and even bitter flavor of teas such as Assam and Lapsang Souchong will shrug at the comparatively tasteless (to them) Snow Dragon white tea or balk at the somewhat kelpy nature of Japanese green teas.
What can you do to overcome such pre-dispositions? Well, you could always shut yourself off from any information about the tea prior to trying it, but you need at least to know some basics about it, such as if it’s green or white or oolong or black. You could stop drinking your normal tea for a month (well, maybe just a week) before trying that white or green tea and see if your tastebuds “forget” the flavor profile of that black tea. Better yet, just get used to the idea that each tea is different.
One thing that can help is to rinse your palate with cool water that has a few drops of lemon juice in it before trying the new tea. It will not only clear out any tastes lingering there but will jolt your brain into “new taste coming” mode. Hubby and I always do this before a tea tasting and find that it physically and mentally removes our preconceptions, preparing our palates for lighter tasting teas.
I have to add a caveat here: when trying something that isn’t a tea but gets called a tea (rooibos, honeybush, herbals such as chamomile and hibiscus, guayusa, yerba maté, etc.), you will, of course, get a flavor quite different than expected if you are a regular drinker of tea (especially Assam, Ceylon, or Chinese black teas). That results from them being “tea” in name (misnomer, actually) only. Just approach the false claimant to the tea name with no pre-conceptions on what to expect flavor-wise.
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