Tea Tasting 

The flavor of tea is a complex perception. There is a certain flavor dynamic. What is meant by the dynamics of flavor? Most teas can be described as having a foreground flavor, middle ground flavor and background flavor. These combine to produce a profile, a "flavor profile". For example, there is a "flavor profile" into which all Darjeeling's will fall simply because they are Darjeelings or all Keemuns or all Yunnans or all Assams, etc. The reason is because all of the individual leaves of each growing region are basically identical. However, a well-balanced profile of each growing region falls within specific profile outlines. An unbalanced profile looks ragged (somewhat like a saw blade) and therefore becomes somewhat less than pleasant to drink. This unbalanced profile can be caused by many things: low altitude, improper pluck, poor processing, bad manufacturing, exposure to water or excessive moisture, to name a few. Tea is like the little girl: when it is good it is very, very good and when it is bad it is horrid.
Flavor is a combination of two sensory perceptions: taste and odor or aroma. The first part of the flavor duo of taste and aroma is perceived by the taste buds and other sensory tissues on the tongue. It is this area which perceives non-volatile stimuli such as: salt, sweet, acid (sour) and bitter. (Occasionally considered also as a functional perception is the taste sensation of metallic, but this may also be caused by medication, metals used to fill dental carries and several other extraneous causes.) These taste buds are generally located in very specific areas on the tongue (sweet in front, salt next and along the sides, acid (sour) next and along the sides, bitter in the rear and from side to side covering the back of the tongue). However, all types of taste buds can be found located sparsely throughout the tongue's entire surface.

Tea Taster

It is said a tea-taster must simultaneously use four of the recognized five human senses. The senses of smell, sight and touch are as essential as is the sense of taste. A "Tea Taster" is the end result, the end product, of years and years of very specialized training which comes toward the close of a career of even more specialized experience within the tea industry. He or she has elevated tea evaluation to more than a science; the "Tea Taster" has raised it to an art. The "Tea Taster" has honed all five senses to the point where they act in unison, simultaneously, as one sense organ whose sole purpose is to make an evaluation, a judgment, on one specific tea at a time (though hundreds of teas may be cupped or tasted during a single day). A "Tea Taster" uses the senses of smell, sight, touch, taste and hearing to form subjective and objective decisions about tea based on the comprehensive information his/her sense organs report. Before a "Tea Taster" can begin to cup tea, the tea must first be potted. The samples of tea are brought to the cupping table (a round table with a lazy Susan top). They are organized by number around the table. Kettles of steaming water are close at hand A "Tea Taster's" lidded cup and bowl are positioned at each numbered setting. The dry leaf is then placed in the bowl and examined carefully. The dry leaf is then placed into the cup. Boiling water is added and the lid is placed on the cup to retain the heat. The infusion is then timed for 6 minutes. The tea liquid (or tea liquor) is then drained completely from the lidded cup back into the bowl. The lidded cup is then turned upside down, thus allowing all of the infused or wet leaf to drop onto the lid. The wet leaves are then examined very carefully, again. Now the "Tea Taster" examines the tea liquor for color and aromatics. Finally, the "Tea Taster," using a special and exact spoon, spoons the tea with a sound which to the outsider represents slurping. This slurping sound is caused by the tea being sucked into the mouth at the exact speed of 125 miles per hour. At this speed, the tea explodes at the back of the palate, forming minute mist particles. These particles tell a story about the tea in volumes to the "Tea Taster." That is all that is needed. One spoonful. The tea is then expectorated into a gaboon and the "Tea Taster" turns the table and begins anew with another cup of tea.