One of the first rules we learn when we are children regarding good table manners are: do not play with the food and do not make any sounds when you eat. But when it comes to tea tasting these rules are basically the opposite. In order to evaluate a tea you have to “play” with it, meaning you have to see it, smell it and taste it. The way tea is tasted professionally is by slurping. The slurp allows the tea to mix with the oxygen to release its maximum flavour. After the slurping also comes the spitting. Master Tea Tasters can taste hundreds of teas in a row and they usually don’t swallow all the teas they taste, they spit them.
Whether you are a professional tea taster or a tea lover, I believe it is a great exercise to evaluate your tea. You are looking for its characteristics, quality, aromas, colour, bright, taste and aftertaste, among other things. It is called sensory evaluation and Master Tea Tasters are trained to systematically and meticulously identify every characteristic of one particular tea each time, hundreds of cups of tea at a time.
But don’t worry if you are not an expert. You can start at home with the teas you have, trying to identify aromas, textures and flavours, also reading about them. You can even ask somebody else to taste them with you and compare your notes.
Finally, forget about “good manners”, grab your spoon and start practicing your slurping skills, -you will notice how much practice it actually takes to do it without choking or dribbling- and open your senses to the variety of flavours and possibilities that a specific tea can provide you. If you love tea and want to start expanding your knowledge and refining your senses, this is a great exercise to start with!