In our last post we went through the necessary skills and traits a qualified and well-respected tea taster should possess. In this post, we will be covering how a tea taster conducts their job.
Firstly however it is important to note that tea is a beverage that has been around for many thousands of years, and has survived all sorts of economic slumps, collapses, and the falls of entire civilisations. As such, a job in the tea industry has a bit more permanence than many other jobs, with job security generally being quite high. Tea has proven to be something that will always be in demand, and its relatively flexible expense ensures its survivability.
Actually performing their job, however, is an interesting and highly technical process. Using a very particular and specialised spoon, the tea taster takes in the tea by slurping it so that it accelerates to exactly 125 miles per hour. This causes a fine mist to form inside the mouth which helps both the olfactory and gustatory senses absorb every aspect of the taste and scent. After thoroughly tasting the tea, it is spat back out into a special pan. The tea taster can then move on to the next cup.
A tea taster will use a stringent methodology under which they will evaluate teas, and also has a standard reference with which to compare them.
Today, tea tasting is a combination of age-old tried and tested methods and scientific methods and understanding unearthed in the modern world. This has both harmonised and standardised tea tasting around the globe.
We often hear of people such as wine tasters; they sample the wine and grade it for quality. But have you ever heard about tea tasters?
A tea taster works within the tea industry as a professional who specialises in sampling teas. It is a complex and artful career path, and those who taste teas are gifted with sensitive tongues and a good sense of intuition.
So, what type of person makes a good tea taster?
Firstly, their taste buds must be highly active and undamaged. In addition, their olfactory sense must also be in good condition, as both of these are required to tell the subtle differences between alkaloids in the samples of tea. A capable tea taster will be able to identify many subtle aromas from within a cup. In turn, this means that the taster should avoid sensory-destroying substances and habits such as spicy foods, alcohol and smoking.
Secondly, they must have a diverse knowledge of the tea plantations and how the teas they are tasting have been manufactured. This knowledge will help them identify these characteristic from inside the teas immediately, and will also them identify mystery teas whose characteristics and sources are unknown.
Thirdly, they must love the earth and all her fruits. To truly appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of tea, they should understand nature and be actively interested in both harvesting and preserving it, allowing it to be the best it can be. A good tea taster may graduate from biology, home science, agriculture, horticulture or food technology.
What you see above is the official Australian Tea Masters Tea Wheel. It is used in all of our professional tea tastings as well as many of our classes.
This tea wheel is free for you to use, reblog, and distribute (as long as the picture remains unaltered and the watermarks remain in-tact). You can use it to help divine the flavour notes of teas – one of the principle goals of tea tasting. We encourage you to try it for yourself! An experienced taster will get more out of a drink, able to distinguish between notes the untrained tongue could never divine.
Why not print off a few copies and have a tea-tasting session with your friends? Who knows what you might find out about teas you’ve drunk all your life but never particularly thought twice about? Who knows what you might find in teas you’ve never tried before?