Tea Cupping — Experience Your Tea Beyond Just Tasting It
Evaluate tea quality from a well-rounded approach
As a continuation of our last article on “Does the look of dry leaves matter?”, we now extend our assessment of our teas after they are steeped. The sensory evaluation of dry and “wet” leaves can be collectively called tea cupping, which is the process of comparing tea leaves to determine their characteristics, quality and grading.
For steeped leaves, we review these four aspects: aroma of liquor, colour of liquor, taste of liquor, and appearance and texture of steeped leaves.1. Aroma
Evaluation of the aroma takes the form of smelling the aroma released after steeping. Smelling takes three stages:
- “Hot smell” — to judge on the purity and characteristics of aroma as well as whether the aroma is strong or weak;
- “Warm smell” — to assess the quality of aroma;
- “Cold smell” — to judge on the lingering of aroma.
Hot smell takes place right after the liquor is poured out of the steeping vessel. Warm smell is conducted after review of the liquor colour but before the tasting of liquor. “Cold smell” is performed after the tasting of the liquor.
Smell the aroma from the opening gaps of the steeping vessel
Make comparisons of the liquor colour. Does the colour match the profile of the tea? Is it bright or dim? Is it dark or light?
Slurp in a spoonful of the liquor and let it touch every part of your tongue in order to get the most taste sensations. Keep in your month for 1-2 seconds before spitting out or swallowing the liquor.
Among the teas assessed, take note on how do they compare in terms of characteristics, body, astringency, bitterness, etc.
4. Steeped leaves
Observe the colour of the steeped leaves. What’s the colour? Are the colours in uniform? Is it lustrous or dim? Feel the leaves with your fingers. Are the leaves soft or coarse? Do you sense some hard spots due to the presence of stalks, stems or other non-tea matter?
Walkthrough of Steeped Leaves Evaluation
Carrying forward from our last article, we have two samples of English Breakfast. Sample A is from tea bag and Sample B is from loose leaf. The picture below shows the liquor after steeping for 5 minutes. The tea to water proportion is 1g : 50mL.
English Breakfast — Left: tea bag, Right: broken leaves
Here’s our quick notes on the four aspects:
Next, we look at sample C and D, both are Keemun black teas.
Comparison of 2 samples of Keemun
Comparison of steeped leaves
Experiencing your tea beyond just tasting it. Give it a try! :D
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