Expert tea tasting focuses on the appearance of the leaf, the aroma, both before and after leaves are infused, the color of the infusion (or “liquor”) and the flavor of the tea.
Examine the leaf. Is it twisted, rolled or a natural, flat leaf? Is it broken or whole? These characteristics affect the taste and body of the infusion.
Smell the tea before steeping. Do the leaves smell grassy, smoky or sweet? Once infused, inhale the bouquet. Does the aroma appeal to you? Is it citrusy, flowery, toasty or fruity?
The color of infused tea (or “liquor”) varies in color. Examine the appearance of the liquid in a white cup. What color do you see? Pale yellow? Green? Copper? Red? Amber?
After cooling slightly, slurp your tea (similar to tasting wine) to make sure the full flavor spreads out all over your tongue. Assess whether it has a full, medium, light or round body. Is it smooth? Does the flavor leave a long, lasting finish or dissipate after swallowing? Note elements of its flavor traits – is it sweet and malty, smoky, earthy, grassy or vegetal?
How the tea feels in your mouth is important too. Some tea exhibits “briskness,” an astringent or dry tasting affect tea has on tongue. Some white teas have a velvety finish.
Keep a notebook handy and make notes about your favorite teas. Keeping reference notes about your favorite teas will help you decide on new teas to try in the future.