Tea tastings are becoming as ubiquitous as wine tastings, and the wonderful opportunities to explore teas is to be applauded. A good tea tasting gives people an opportunity not only to learn about new teas, but also to learn about tea production and about their own perceptions of taste. Many people come away from tasting events realizing that they appreciated a new taste experience, or feeling re-introduced to a flavor or texture they thought they didn’t like.
But it is important to go to a good tea tasting.
What is a good tea tasting?
A good tea tasting:
1) Gives You Clear Expectations Of The Kind Of Event It Will Be
There can be many kinds of tea tea tastings, most of which fall into one of four kinds:
- the small group tasting in which tea is prepared on demand right before your eyes
- a flight of teas, where multiple teas have been pre-prepared for larger groups
- pairings events, where pre-prepared teas are served alongside other foods to compliment each other
- a combination of the 2 or more of the elements above
The point is that what you expect from a tea tasting align with the experience you get. It can be quite disappointing to attend what you believe is a more intimate event with an expert steeping small pots of exquisite tea, only to find a room of full of people munching snacks, chatting away, and being served pre-steeped tea from pitchers. There’s nothing wrong with either format, but simply labeling both as tea-tastings doesn’t help explain the differences between them.
2) Provides As Full An Experience Of The Tea(s) As Purposed
The goal of most tea tastings is, in one way or another, develop customers. Sometimes this is a more direct, or hard sale- you are offered teas to buy and told pricing during the event. Other times, this is a more indirect, soft sale- the goal is to foster appreciation and desire for tea and a (possibly more distant) future purchase. In either case, a tea tasting event should work to present teas in as accurate light as possible. Teas should be introduced in a certain way. Not everyone will want to know (or care) about all these details, but everyone attending the tasting should have quick, easy access to:
- Where the tea is from: country of origin, and region where appropriate.
- Harvest time: season, month, and date when appropriate. For example, if you are offered a pre-Qing Ming Chinese green tea, it helps if you and others know when the Qing Ming Festival is.
- A little info on how the tea was steeped. Your like or dislike of a tea may depend on how it was steeped. A little more, and the tea is too strong. A little less, and its too weak.
- A decent cup to drink it in. Plastic cups and some paper cups can release off-odors when filled with hot beverage. You’ll want to know how much of what you’re smelling/tasting is the tea and how much is the cup’s material.
Again, not everyone will want or demand this kind of information. But maybe more of us should. I am reminded of a recent Consumerist article about a Teavana customer who tasted a tea in the store and could not replicate the taste by following the package’s steeping instructions. She discovered that the server at Teavana had not followed the steeping instructions as provided on the package, thereby cutting into her cost-per-cup and her expectations.
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Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings.
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