Maybe you’re a long-time tea schlurper. Maybe you’ve just come across rolled, whole leaves. Either way, you’re keen to get the most out of your cup. And that’s brought you here.
To learn how to taste tea properly and explore new flavours.
You might not realise, but tea can taste different depending on the region it came from, the conditions it grew under, when it was harvested, how it was manufactured, and how it was brewed. All tea starts with the same plant, but each cup can taste completely different from its neighbour.
Here we go. A step-by-step guide on how to taste tea like a pro.
STEP 1: Choose the right tea
Always a great place to start. We recommend English breakfast. Why? It’s what most people are familiar with, and is a favourite for many. It’s always a good idea to start with a taste you’re used to, so you can start to understand what goes into the blend. Whichever is your favourite, keep those leaves rolled and whole to make sure you get the most flavour, and the least bitterness.
STEP 2: Get the right teapot
For loose leaf tea, you’ll need a teapot. Try and stick with one that gives the leaves loads of room to move around, absorb water, and release all that taste. Baskets can be too restrictive for rolled leaves, and can result in a more bitter cup of tea. Interestingly, this also applies to tea bags - if you want to experiment, try our English Breakfast loose and as a tea bag, and notice the strength difference between the two.
Our Proper Teapot has been designed to give all the room possible for the best taste. With the in-built strainer in the lid, there’s no need to worry about leaves in your cup.
STEP 3: Brew
Follow the instructions on the box of tea to get the most out of your leaves. We’ve recommended specific brewing times for each blend. For the classics (English Breakfast, Earl Grey etc), we encourage trying to play around with the brewing time and amount of tea, as some drinkers prefer these blends stronger or lighter. For our Tasting Club blends, our recommendations are based on showcasing the blend profile at its best - so this is a great place to start.
There are three elements to brewing.
- The all-important ratio. We recommend 5g of tea to 400ml of water as a good starting point for most blends. But if you like yours on the strong side, add a little more tea to the same volume of water into your pot. If you don’t put enough in, you won’t get too much of the flavour released into the water.
- Temperature. For most blends of black tea, we recommend brewing at 100 degrees (boiling). As with the ratio, if the temperature is too low, it won’t be enough to bring out the different tastes in the tea. The exception is green tea as boiling water will burn the leaves. In this case, 85 degrees is perfect (no thermometer? Just add cold water to the top of our logo under the teapot handle first).
- Time. As with all things worth waiting for, time is essential. For most of our blends, we recommend between 3 and 5 minutes to get the perfect balance. Too little time? You won’t get all the flavour extracted and you’re in for a weak tasting cup. Too long and you’ll start to extract the bitter notes and it will taste too harsh.
Need some extra advice on brewing? Click here.
STEP 4: Sniff
Yes, really. Pour out your tea, and open the tea pot with the wet leaves still inside. Have a sniff of the leaves - the smells and aromas will give you a great guide as to how the tea is going to taste. Compare to the dry leaves. What do you smell? Are they the same? Or completely different?
STEP 5: Schlurp
Get yourself a big spoonful of tea and make a big noise whilst you cover the whole of the inside of your mouth with tea. Think of the way you’d drink soup that’s *just* too hot. You want to take in oxygen and coat all your tastebuds in the tea.
Breathe in and out. Take a couple of sips. Have a break. Take some more. What tastes or sensations stay? What’s fleeting? You’re looking to pick out the flavour type and the sensation. Is it floral or woody? Bitter or smooth?
STEP 6: Taste
What can you taste? This is where you can get a little creative. Pick out all the flavours you can and write them down. Be as descriptive as you can. Could you taste what you could smell? Or is it totally different? Are there new things in there? Or have you lost something?
Here’s a tasting wheel to get you started - what type of taste is it? (e.g. citrus) Start there and then work out the exact notes with each sip (e.g. grapefruit).
STEP 7: Grab your notebook
Write down your million pound conclusions. These are the kinds of things to be thinking about:
- Body. This is how light or heavy it feels. A good indicator is how it takes milk. If you’re still not sure, think of the difference between water and syrup, and you’re there.
- Complexity. This is how much is going on in your cup. Largely down to the number of ingredients, but think of it as how many different things can you taste? Is there one main flavour coming through, or does each sip surprise you?
- Notes. These are the flavours themselves, the ones you picked out with the tasting wheel. The actual things you can taste. For example, lemon, almond, cinnamon...
- Final thoughts? Write anything that comes to mind about the blend. Any good food pairings? Maybe you’d only drink this in the morning. Or afternoon - can you put your finger on why? This is where it starts to get really interesting.
And finally, score it. Out of 5. Take your time - it’s a big decision.
If you’re tasting one of our Brewtime Tasting Club blends, make sure you submit your scores here - only the very top rated blends have a chance of making the cut for the future. So have your say and let us know what you thought.
And there you have it. Professional tea taster incoming. Let us know if you conduct an “at-home tea tasting”. Did you do it alone or make it the new Saturday night in with your friends? Are you a casual connoisseur or should we expect a lab report?
We want to know exactly what you thought. And there might even be a badge in it for you.