Have you ever dreamt of becoming a tea taster?
Tasting 600 cups of tea per day. Is it tempting enough?
I had a memorable tea tasting session at Ahmad Tea in Chandler’s Ford.
Strong aroma of tea permeated this large, clinically clean tea-testing room. 100 cups of tea were ready to be tested. I was quite excited.
The few cups of tea I tasted were bitter-sweet. Each cup of tea was made with 2.5g of tea leaves. Then the tea was brewed for 5 minutes.
Three expert tea tasters of Ahmad Tea welcomed me for a fun and enlightening tea-tasting session. They are William Manning, Dominic Marriott and Neil Pavely.
How did the experts taste the tea?
1) With a tasting spoon, scoop up the tea quickly, and roll the tea around the mouth to reach all the taste buds.
2) Slurp – making the most unpleasant noise in the world!
3) Spit the tea out into a large bin.
It’s all done in about 4 seconds. They quickly move on to the next cup.
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.
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.
Tea tasting is actually a comprehensive examination of tea. It’s much more than tasting the flavour of the tea.
It really takes years to develop a tea taster’s trained, sensitive taste buds and a keen sense of smell.
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 Manning emphasised that good black tea should contain “golden tips” which come from the buds.
A sense of touch is equally important. Tea tasters check the size, evenness and style of the leaves. For example, if the tea contains a high percentage of moisture, it will not keep well.
It was such a wonderful morning, surprisingly entertaining and highly educational — learning about the art of tea tasting and the art of proper slurping too.