How to drink tea like a pro.
Are you a tea lover who appreciates the aroma and flavors but you want to take your appreciation to the next level?
Or maybe you’re brand new to tea, and you want to learn how to enjoy tea more?
Either way, below are tips to add flavor to your tea ritual.
First off, I can’t say enough about loose leaf teas versus tea dust (also known as fannings) usually found in tea bags. They’re more flavorful than tea dust. Period. WHen you’re learning how to drink tea, they’re a must.
(Quick recap: Whole and partial loose leaf teas contain more natural oils while tea leaves that have been pulverized (dust) and lose most of their oils — and flavor — to evaporation during processing.) Basically, you’re sacrificing antioxidants and flavor for convenience.
The pros use a gaiwan, which is a small Chinese cup or bowl with a lid to remove the leaves when you pour.
However, that’s not necessary.
Use a brewing accessory that allows the leaves to unfurl completely.
One of the biggest issues I take with smaller infusers is that they don’t allow the leaves to unfurl when you brew them. This means that the oils locked inside the leaves can’t be released fully.
You need a tool that allows the leaves to unfurl completely and release all of their flavor.
Once you’ve got your tea and tea tools, you’ll need paper and pen; you’ll be jotting down notes on what you like about the tea and what you’re tasting overall.
Tea is brewed a bit differently depending on what type it is.
Use fresh water.
You’ll need fresh water – filtered is best to reduce the taste of any additives to the water affecting the taste of the tea.
I’m assuming you’re tasting one cup at a time since we humans usually only drink one cup at a time. 🙂 In pro tea tastings, one tea after another is lined up for your to sip. (You actually slurp.)
A note on slurping.
Yes, it sounds gross. Yes, your mom (probably) taught you it’s rude. But that’s how to drink tea if you’re a pro. Slurping helps aerate the tea to help you taste all the subtle flavors. It also disperses the tea all over your mouth. If you missed that biology class in high school, we have different taste sensor on different parts of our tongues. Try slurping a couple times, then you can sip the rest of your tea in a well-behaved manner, so people don’t stare at you.
Before you brew your tea:
- Look at the leaf. Do you see stems, broken leaves, how large do the leaves seem to you?
- Bring the leaves up to your nose. What do you smell? Is the aroma earthy, grassy, odorless?
- Eat one of the dry leaves. What do you taste?
Want some words to get your senses flowing? Click here for a free PDF with tasting vocab.
Brew your tea according directions or your preference.
Now, how to drink tea.
After you’ve brewed your tea, compare the dry leaves to the brewed leaves. They’ll smell different from one another.
You can change how you brew the next cup you don’t like it. Too bitter? Tea brewing is a game of trial and error. If you feel it’s bitter, you can brew the tea for less time, use less tea the next time you brew, or you can brew at a lower temperature.
Bring the brewed liquor to your nose. What color is it? What do you smell? How does it compare with the aroma of the wet and dry leaves?
Slurp. What do you taste?
Re-brew your tea and taste again. Loose leaf teas are meant to be re-brewed multiple times. Subsequent brews may bring out different flavors.
Below is a picture of the brewed liquor of a Lapsang Souchong. It’s a black tea smoked over pine wood. Also pictured are dry leaves (bottom) and leaves brewed one time (top).
The bottom picture shows a brightened comparison of the dried leaves and the brewed leaves. You’ll see that they appear tiny, but you’ll see in the top photo that their oils give the tea a shine, and they begin to unfurl.
The more times you re-brew your tea, the more the leaves unfurl and the larger they become. They’ll continue unfurling with each subsequent brew to unlock more of the tea’s natural oils.
Lapsang Souchong is a unique tea in that you either like it or you don’t. You either think it smells and tastes delicious like a comforting campfire, or you think it smells like a burned tire (that’s an actual quote from one of my friends at a tea tasting party).
The best part about tea tasting is that you’re never wrong. Each person tastes something different when they’re sipping.
Now that you have these tools on how to drink tea in your tea tool belt, pull a tea out of your cabinet or drawer and try sipping it with these tips in mind. Share anything new you learned in the comments below!
Sending you lots of tea love,