When you first sit down to start experiencing tea as a taster, either for fun or for a living, be sure to bring a pen and paper with you. In the beginning, it may be odd to write down tasting notes and flavors and details, but as you build your vocabulary, you will be better at noticing a whole range of aromas, notes, flavors, and pieces of the tea that tell you how it was processed. It may be best to start your tasting after brushing your teeth, then rinsing your mouth with water also.
Guide to tasting tea
• Leaf: Inspecting the leaf what it is telling. Is it rolled twisted, a usual or, plane leaf? This and whether the leaf is shattered or whole will disturb the taste. Also, looking at the color. Is it dark or green or torn. If it is in pieces, the quality is often lower and the tea will not be brewed as many times. If it easily falls apiece in your hand when rubbed between your fingers, the tea may have been over fired or left moist for too long after firing.
• Aroma: Scent the leaves before brewing. Do they have a have a smoky, grassy, or sweet scent? The tea should never taste or smell sour, as this may be dangerous to your health. Remember to smell like a dog, fast and quick sniffs, as opposed to long sniffs with your nose. This better activates your olfactory senses in your nose.
• Liquor: The color of permeated tea or fluid can vary in pigment, hue, and vibrancy. It should never be cloudy, as this may be due to pesticides or poor processing. Explore the evenness of its pigment, and look of the liquid in a white or glass cup. You may see tiny hairs in the liquid, which is often present in green or white teas. When first analyzing the tea, do not use a strainer; instead, brew it in an open vessel or cup to allow for better viewing of the tea and tea liquid.
• Taste: After brewing, taste your tea to understand the full taste of the tea. Plugging your nose when tasting tea could allow some of the bolder notes to make their way thru. The international standard for tasting is 212 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 minuets. Of course, doing this with many teas may not bring out the best flavor, as some are best around 30 seconds or so. However, this does bring many of the characteristics of the tea to the surface so that one may learn about the tea quickly.
Have fun with it and taste your teas in varying conditions, brewing times, water temperatures and sources, and after different meals. Enjoy and happy tasting!