Taste Tea Like An Expert (Or At Least Pretend To)

In March, I visited the award-winning tea artisan Mr. Chang in Taiwan. While enjoying Mr. Chang’s hospitality and outstanding competition grade oolong tea, his wife decided to show us how a tea judge does tea tasting. Mrs. Chang is a certified judge in tea competitions. I would like to share her techniques so we can all train our senses for optimal tea tasting.

During a tea tasting competition, blind taste tests are performed and judges were asked to grade each tea sample based on aroma, appearance and taste. Ms. Chang led us through the tasting process step-by-step:

1. Weight the tea. Use 3 grams of tea and 150 ml water. You should also place a small sample of each kind of dry leaves on small dishes.
2. Pour the boiled water over the tea and place a lid on the teapot.
3. Wait 6 minutes. The goal in competitive tea tasting is not necessarily to get the best results for each different tea. Rather it is to compare them under the same conditions.
4. Pour the tea in a tea cup and leave tea leaves in the original teapot. 
5. Aroma: Dip a spoon into the tea cup and then smell the back of the spoon. Also sample the aroma from the lid of the teapot.  
6. Color: Observe the color of the tea liquid and of the wet tea leaves in the teapot. 
7. Wait another 6 minutes. Good quality tea should be still tasty and smooth even after the temperature cools down to 100-140 ˚F
8. Taste: Take a small, measured sip out of the spoon to ensure that the flavor you experience is not influenced by the size of your sip.

Taiwanese oolong tea has been recognized as the highest grade of oolong tea in the world today. Tea competition plays an important role in making this happen. Competition drives improvements in production techniques that result in better tasting oolong tea. Top awards from tea competitions are a source of pride and deep honor for farmers and tea artisans. Also, the teas which receive first place awards can be some of the most expensive teas in the world. These award winning teas are sometimes priced at $10,000 dollars per pound and even more!

By Wendy W. Dickerson for Wang & Dickerson Artisan Oolong Tea



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