Tea Flavor Wheel: More Helpful or Harmful?

by Jason Walker on January 31, 2013

in Uncategorized

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One of my side projects occurs at the crossroads of tea appreciation, taste, and education.

Wine aroma wheels have existed for decades now. They have been hailed and hissed at since they were created. There is always some flaw – they are incomplete or too complex. They remove the critical reflection needed to develop taste, and allow you to essentially throw your finger onto the dartboard.

Does tea need a standardized aroma/flavor wheel to help tasters learn?

Part of me says: “Yes.” I tire of seeing/hearing so many green teas being reduced to a single descriptor like “grassy” or “vegetal”.

When a flavor wheel is employed, it is better if those flavors/aromas are a minimal combination of descriptors used in research and those generally accepted by the industry. Color associations can also be helpful triggers.

But flavor/aroma are often not the most important qualities of a fine tea. So many Japanese and Chinese teacups are mere thimbles because tea wasn’t about gulping down flavor. They were about texture and aftertaste. A monk could take a mere sip of tea and savor the feel on his tongue, the residing sweetness in the throat for minutes if not hours.

So appreciating tea flavor/aroma must be put into the tea’s fuller context. Intensity, duration, texture – these must be explored as well.  Admittedly “aftertaste” implies flavor, but it is as much about what happens in your throat and mouth after swallowing the tea. It is the impression the tea leaves upon you, and how you respond to that impression.

So tea tasting and education should also guide learners in the art of appreciating/being aware of  a tea’s aftertaste.

What kind of tea flavor/aroma wheel would you like to see used?

How should taste, texture, aftertaste, etc.  fit into the overall development of personal tea appreciation skills?



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Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings.
Want to see a tea reviewed? Contact me: jason@walkerteareview.com

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