So, you’re going to try some new teas or you are going to a tea tasting event. How do you prepare your palate for this experience? Yes, you need to prepare or your time and effort (and the cost of the event) will be wasted. That delicate aroma, that initial flavor hit and lingering aftertaste, that wonderful mouthfeel — it will all be lost without being prepared.
In a recent article on this blog, tea pro and cook Janet Sanchez gave us some foods to use to cleanse the palate. This is very important so the flavor of one tea does not carry over to the next tea being tried. But there are other factors to keep in mind, such as the following:
1 Avoid Strong-Tasting Food
From curry that can set your mouth on fire to chili that sets not only your mouth but your esophagus and stomach and the rest of the digestive track on fire, spicy foods are certainly an issue when you are trying to prepare your palate for a tea tasting. But don’t forget other strong flavors. Very sweet foods can be just as problematic. Cinnamon rolls are a good example, with their gooey caramel and tons of cinnamon and icing. Things like maple syrup can also throw tastebuds out of whack. When we eat sweets, other flavors come across stronger, so lemons taste more sour, etc.
2 Avoid Strong Fragrances
Since taste and smell are closely related, you will want to forego perfumes, colognes, etc. This is good whenever you are in a location where people are eating, not just doing tea tastings. Hubby and I were in a restaurant not long ago when someone wearing sandalwood fragrance walked by, spoiling our dinner. Normally a very pleasant fragrance, sandalwood didn’t quite go with the items on our plates and in our cups. And it lasted long after that person had left the area.
3 Avoid Allergens When Possible
This may sound impossible, but you can avoid the things that stir up your hayfever or throw you into some kind of allergic reaction, at least for about 24 hours before the tea tasting. You can stay indoors, take allergy medication ahead of symptoms (if the directions on the package say it’s okay to do so), and generally stay clear of those allergens. If you do have to venture out and the pollen count is high, be sure to change your clothes and even take a shower and wash your hair when you get back in to get rid of as much pollen as possible (even if you don’t see any).
4 Do Your Homework
Learn about the various flavor profiles in the teas you will be tasting. You don’t need to memorize them or even make up a cheat sheet. Just have a basic idea: fruity, floral, nutty, etc. You may also want to know a bit about the teas before trying them. It can make a difference to know just how rare and/or labor-intensive a tea is. On the other hand, you do want to approach each tea with a fairly open mind.
5 Clear Your Head
We’re talking about your state of mind, not your nasal passages, here. A basically positive attitude that is focused on the tea is needed. So set aside that quarrel you had with a co-worker, the file that got deleted off your computer and you had no back-up copy, and the umpteenth spat you broke up between the kids. This is pure “me time” where you can give full attention to your senses.
Follow these five and have a great tea tasting time!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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