Have you ever dreamt of becoming a tea taster? Tasting 600 cups of tea per day. How does it sound to you?
I had a wonderful tea-tasting session at Ahmad Tea London (not based in London, but in Chandler’s Ford in Hampshire.)
Strong fragrance of tea permeated this large, clinically clean tea-testing room. 100 cups of tea were ready to be tested (some by me! I’m not kidding.) I was quite excited.
The few cups of tea I tasted were bitter-sweet. I couldn’t quite tell their differences anyway. Each cup of tea was made with 2.5g of tea leaves. Then you let the tea brew for 5 minutes. No wonder the tea tasted strong.
Three expert tea tasters of Ahmad Tea welcomed me for a fun and enlightening tea-tasting session on Tuesday. They are William Manning, Dominic Marriott and Neil Pavely.
This was how the three gentlemen tasted the tea:
1) Put a large spoonful of tea in the mouth. (The spoon is larger than a normal spoon.)
2) Slurp the tea — make the most unpleasant noise in the world!
3) Spit the tea out in a bin.
4) Move on the the next cup quickly.
Now you know their secret: expert tea tasters slurp all day.
With ignorance, I had thought I would sip the tea elegantly like a graceful upper class lady. No. you have to slurp from your diaphragm, move the tea around the mouth, to the back of your mouth, to activate all 9,000 taste buds.
When tasting tea, you need to forget all good manners that your mum has ever taught you. You just slurp. Now I’ve learnt slurping is the only way to help you develop a sophisticated palate and sensitive taste buds.
Tea tasting is actually a comprehensive examination of tea. It’s much more than tasting the flavour of the tea.
Tea tasters also examine many aspects of the tea leaves. For example, good black tea should have a uniform black colour with a bloom or sheen.
William emphasised that good black tea should contain “golden tips” which come from the ‘buds’ and not from the two leaves. Stalk and fibre are not welcome.
A sense of touch is equally important. Tea tasters check the size, evenness and style of the leaves. If the tea contains a high percentage of moisture, it will not keep well.
With the three tea experts, I learnt a great deal of useful tea grading vocabulary too (just in case I need to show off), such as:
I was fortunate to taste tea properly with the three expert tea tasters.
I learn proper slurping too.