There are few pleasures in life like perfectly brewed tea. A good cup of tea can be a sensual journey awakening the senses of sight, smell, and taste. Most of us have likely grown up drinking chai, that unique Indian way of making tea by boiling with milk and sugar, often adding an assortment of spices. However, to truly taste the nuances of loose-leaf tea, you need to drink it like a connoisseur. Here’s how to do it right.
Read the leaves
Begin by observing the tea leaves. Using loose-leaf tea will give you a better sense of the quality of tea. Good tea should have leaves that display consistency of colour, size, and shape. Tea leaves that show consistency have been intentionally processed a certain way to yield a perfect type of brew, almost as if it were a handcrafted, artisanal product. Touch the tea leaves; they should be dry and crunchy, which means the tea hasn’t absorbed moisture from around it.
Now brew the tea by steeping 1-2 teaspoons in a cup of hot water. The water temperature will vary for different types of tea, e.g. black tea must be brewed in boiling water while green, white, and oolong tea must be steeped anywhere between 65-90°C. Allow the leaves to steep from 1-2 minutes for green and white tea, to 3-5 minutes for black tea. You can vary the steeping time depending upon how strong you like the tea, but for tasting the tea notes, we recommend a strong brew.
Decant the infusion in a white cup and observe the colour of the brew. White crockery will help you see the colour and depth of tea better. Tea can range from green to yellow to amber, and even red depending on the type of tea, but it should be bright and shiny like a jewel. Is the brew clear or cloudy? And does it appear to have body or is it thin and weak? This will give you an idea about the quality of tea.
Take a whiff
The next step is to take a deep breath and inhale the aroma. At this point you will be able to identify various notes like floral or fruity, citrusy or grassy, nutty or spicy, and many more. The aroma will certainly invoke some memory; try to figure out what it reminds you of.
They say the proof is in the pudding, and so it is in tasting the tea. Take a sip, either directly from the cup or by scooping a spoonful of the tea liquor. Slurp in the tea; now is not the time for table manners! By slurping the tea, you mix oxygen with the liquor and this helps bring out the flavours. Remember the notes you detected when smelling the tea? Now figure out if you taste similar notes or do newer notes make an appearance. Also, pay attention to the mouthfeel or the way the tea liquor coats your palate.
Now that you know how to taste tea like a pro, put it to use by trying different types of tea. Try The Hillcart Tales’ Assam Ambrosia in the morning for an invigorating start to your day. This long-leaf tea gives a dark amber brew with a sweet, almost buttery mouthfeel. For green tea lovers, we recommend Green Embassy for its pale greenish yellow brew and delicate floral aroma, just perfect for a late afternoon pick-me-up. Alternatively, savour the grassy overtones of the rich full-bodied Oriental Oolong with the distinct notes of honey to sweeten your evening.