Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Taste, baby! (revisited)

Happy New Year to all of you! I’m back from a whirlwind trip through South India – 14 days, 2 plane rides, 4 train rides, 9 cities, and various minibus, automobile, and auto-rickshaw adventures. 100 family members (really), 10 colorful shops, 4 amazing tours, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Sorry, baby, couldn’t resist.)


In the middle of my amazing race around the country, I had a genuine tea cupping encounter. Picture this . . . I am in the home of a tea merchant, asking him about his experiences in the industry. Suddenly, he tells me that I must take his tea cupping test, to identify the special blend that he has created for his own business.


Daunting.


We go out onto his house balcony, where his charming daughter-in-law, also a tea aficionado, has set up a line of identical white tea cups and tiny tasting pots. When the correct amount of time passes, she moves swiftly from cup to cup, stopping the steeping process and pouring the tea liquors.


The merchant talks me through each taste. Remember, tea tasting involves a good long look at the liquid as well as a few minutes spent absorbing its aroma. It also requires one noisy slurp from a spoon that allows the tea liquor to cover all parts of the mouth for the most complete taste possible.


This was a true high point in my trip – an authentic and unexpected tasting experience in the middle of the land where tea is actually grown and produced. And to do this with an expert, a person whose life is tea, was just amazing.


And, in case you were wondering, based upon his discussion of what is important to him for his tea blends, I was able to identify his special blend (phew)!


Copyright 2008, East West Blends, LLC, All Rights Reserved


1 comment:

alt.norm said...

This sounds like a marvelous tasting experience. I am curious to know what the flavors were...how do tea tasters typically capture their tasting notes? Also, I wonder is there a taste/aroma "wheel" for tea as there is for wine (that is, a chart identifying the spectrum of flavors and/or aromas)?