What is the secret of expert tea tasters? My tea-tasting at Ahmad Tea

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.

tea

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.

Ahmad Tea's expert tea tasters: (From right): William Manning, Dominic Marriott and Neil Pavely

Ahmad Tea’s expert tea tasters: (From right): 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.

Tasting and slurping

Tasting and slurping

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.

Detailed records of each tea

Detailed records of each tea

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.

Examining tea leaves: colour, size, evenness

Examining tea leaves: colour, size, evenness

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:
tea-grade
I was fortunate to taste tea properly with the three expert tea tasters.

I learn proper slurping too.

With Ahmad tea expert tea taster, Wiliam

With Ahmad tea expert tea taster, Wiliam

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15 thoughts on “What is the secret of expert tea tasters? My tea-tasting at Ahmad Tea

    1. Janet Williams Post author

      It was truly exciting! I love the aroma in the tea tasting room. To be honest, I was so shocked when I first heard their loud slurp. When they repeated slurping, I knew I was in a completely different world. Their slurps reminded me of Japanese people drinking soup. Don’t the Japanese slurp when drinking soup too?

      Reply
  1. Hari Qhuang

    This is very interesting. I have heard about wine-tasting but this is the first time i read about tea-tasting! Thanks for writing the post! 😀

    Reply
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  3. misswhiplash

    ah …you stirred up a storm in a tea-cup…that’s the way to do it Janet..get people talking…I love my cup of tea but I prefer Tetley’s, although Earl Grey if I’m in a posh place

    Reply
    1. Janet Williams Post author

      Hi Patrecia,

      It’s strange that some people seem to think Earl Grey is a posh tea, possibly because of the mint flavour.

      I love the fragrance of Earl Grey early in the morning. I also drink Tetley but it’s a bit too strong for me now.

      I would love to have a summer tea party with you (only if Tilly is fully booked and you can have me instead)!

      Reply
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  6. irsyad

    Wow…. it’s really wonderfull experient. Could you share to me how can you had tea-tasting session at Ahmad Tea London.

    Reply
  7. John Stokes

    Good morning

    A slightly odd request, I’m trying to track down on old school friend, Ivor Davies – I G Davies, (ex Kings School Canterbury). I believe he became a Tea Taster in the 60s after leaving School.

    Would you have any ideas or leads?

    Kind regards
    John
    John Stokes

    Reply
    1. Charles Seller

      John,

      Still need this? If so let me know.I have a contact who would probably have IG’s details.

      Best wishes

      Charles Seller

      Reply

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