Learn How to Describe Tea
Ever since I started this journey of building the CHAOCHA tea brand. Almost all of my friends have been invited to have tea with me, mostly because I’m trying to source tea and have way too many samples to go through.
They always put up a funny, puzzled face when I ask them what the tea tastes like. They would simply say whether or not they liked the tea and which one they liked better. “I don’t know how to describe it” was the common excuse. I was the same before, for more than 20 years, until I was forced to open my senses which lead to an eye-opening self-discovery and, I know I ought to share some of my thoughts on this with you.
3 tips to start describing tea
1. Say Whatever
Sometimes, it’s not that you don’t know how to describe it, it’s that you are afraid that you will say something wrong. But, as taste is something completely specific to us as an individual, there is no right or wrong to it. Your experience (whether you’ve tasted or smelled something before) and your diet (what tastes you are most sensitive to) both play a big role in how you would describe the tasting note.
So, just say whatever you wanna say when tasting! Throw words out! When I can’t find a taste-related or flavor-related word for a tea, I would just describe my feelings or an image that tea made me think of. I often find smell or taste the best medium of bringing back our memories.
I once commented on a green tea, “This tea reminds me of the bamboo forest in Hangzhou.”
2. Own Your Style
Learn a few basic terminologies so you can exchange opinions with your tea pals, but you should also have a few words that are more of your own or in a style that represents you. Start with writing out words to describe your favorite drink or food.
Mine is Negroni and coconut chicken hotpot, so I would write down orange zest, syrup sweet, orange peel bitter finish, lingering tropical floral note, punchy, pure, soothing, healing creamy, warm, savory, heavenly.
Now, also write down words to describe when your favorite drink and food is not as good as their best version, which for me would be: overwhelming, watery, lacking, tasteless, dull.
These could all be vocabulary when it comes to describing a tea.
3. Use These Words
Pick up some common terms (which I combined form the Western flavor wheel and Eastern flavor group) from below to use at your tasting note. I want to encourage you to always keep a note of your tasting! This will help you to be more mindful when drinking tea and definitely add a fun element to enjoying tea.
90% of the flavor is perceived through smell. So aroma is important.
Basically the above but more specific.
People love our articles!
For those interested in tea-talk, this is a great place to start.
I've been a tea drinker for quite some time, but still feel I have a very hard time conjuring up the specifics of what I like in a good brew.
Thanks to Swan, I now have a much better idea of how to put my taste buds to the test. And, the way she advocates writing out your favorite drink or food to help you better own your style is a nice kick-start.
Thank you for sharing on ways to describe tea, especially #2 owning our own style and sharing how to connect tea with how we feel. I’m surprised and amazed!
Never looked at tea from that angle, feel like sipping a cup now to express myself~
I drink a lot of tea, wine, coffee, and I always look forward to sharing the good ones I come across with friends.
As this article describes, I've definitely found it difficult at times to describe the complexity of flavors in a simple, elegant way that's easy to understand, and to makle someone else say, "DAMN! That does sound good!"
I found the tips in this article really helpful, especially how it broke up adjectives into different categories such as aroma, flavor, mouthfeel/style, and sensation.