Article excerpted from A Tea Party
Planner by Ellen Easton. All photos are copyrighted by Ellen Easton©
and may not be reproduced without written consent from Ellen Easton.
Check out more of Ellen Easton's
Tea Travels™ articles and recipes.
A Tea Tasting
For your own enjoyment, a special event, a theme party, business
venture or classroom education, having a tea tasting is an easy and
fun way to explore the vast variety of offerings available in the
world of tea.
Whether you choose to have your tea tasting with one type of tea
category at a time, example all green teas, all Earl Grey teas,
etc., or wish to have a broad base, introductory tasting showcasing
each category is your choice.
The first step is to set a table placing the dry leaf teas, with
labels, into groups of white, green, oolong and black, followed by
the infusions. This will allow each person to touch, smell and feel
the differences in the dry leaf blends. You may also create a tray
featuring the tea/infusion enhancers.
Make certain you have a large slop bowl or alternative place to
discard the liquid tea after each tasting.
The next step, one at a time, is to brew each of the blends for the
actual tasting. Each person should have a minimum of one teacup and
one teaspoon per person. If you are able to supply a new teacup
for each category of tea, so much the better. Do not pour a full cup
of tea, as only a swallow or two is necessary to taste each blend.
Do not allow the guests to dip their teaspoons into a communal cup
of tea, as it is unsanitary and can spread germs.
Explain that all tea, white, green, oolong and black, comes from the
same plant the Camellia Sinensis - the tea trade's international
botanical name for the tea plant. Yes, one can have herbal tea,
provided that there is tea blended with the herb. If there is no
tea in the blend, one is having an infusion. An infusion is
anything steeped in hot water to extract flavor.
After the group has tasted an individual blend engage in
conversation, with each person describing and sharing their
experience. No one should go home without having discovered a new
Tea Brick - Front
Tea Brick - Back
Brick Tea -
Common grades of China and Japan tea mixed with stalk and dust and
molded into bricks under high pressure. Originally, the bricks were
used by Asian travelers as a convenient way of carrying the tea they
needed to drink. The tea bricks were also used as currency to barter
for other goods. The compresses markings detail the regions from
whence they came.
Tea - Grades of Tea
There are over 3,000 varieties of tea. Their names are
taken from the regions from which they grow. A brief
description of the grades is as follows:
Orange Pekoe (OP) - Long, thin, wiry leaves,
which sometimes contain yellow tip or bud leaf. The
liquors are light or pale in color.
Pekoe (P) - The leaves of this grade are shorter and
not so wiry as orange pekoe, but the liquors generally
have more color.or bud leaf. The
liquors are light or pale in color.
Souchong (S) - A bold and round leaf with pale
Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) - Much smaller than any of
the leaf grades and usually contains yellow tip. The liquors have good color and strength in the cup
and are the mainstay of a blend.
Broken Pekoe (BP) - Slightly larger than broken
orange pekoe, with rather less color in the cup; useful as a filler in a blend.
Broken Pekoe Souchong (BPS) - A little larger or bolder than broken pekoe and in
consequence lighter in the cup, but, also used as a filler.
Fannings- Much smaller than broken orange pekoe and
its main virtues are quick brewing with good color in
the cup. Often used in tea bags.
Fines - This is the name for the smallest grade
produced. Very useful for a quick brewing, strong cup
of tea; used only in blends of similar sized leaf, generally for catering purposes
Store tea away from light in an airtight container in a
cool, dry place.
Black Teas - Fully oxidized / fully fermented
Withering, rolling, full oxidation and drying. Sugar or honey enhances the flavor of black tea. Milk may be served with black tea if desired.
Oolong Teas - Partially oxidized/partially fermented
Withering, partial oxidation and drying. Sugar enhances the flavor of oolong tea. Milk is not served or recommended.
Green Teas - No oxidation/unfermented
Steamed, rolled and dried. Milk is never served with green tea.
Rare and similar to green tea with a slower drying phase. Once exclusive to the Imperial Court of China.
Very rare and plucked from the tip of the tea plant. Exclusive to China.
Infusions For Tea
Rooibos, Honeybush, Yerba -Mate, Barks, Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Roots, Spices, Chrysanthemum,
Gardenia, Jasmine, Lotus, Orange Blossom, Rose, Rose Hips, Almond,
Apple, Black Current, Blueberry, Lemon, Mango, Orange, Raspberry,
Strawberry, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Ginger, Mint, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme
are only a small sample of the thousands of varieties available.
When using the infusion method DO NOT boil the ingredients.
Place the ingredients into a preheated porcelain teapot, pour in
boiling water and replace the teapot lid. Allow to steep two to
eight minutes according to taste. Use bottled, spring or distilled
water for the best results.
Store infusions away from light in an airtight container in a cool, dry place
Suggested flavor enhancers for teas and infusions: Cinnamon, ginger, honey, milk, mint, sugar, vanilla or vanilla sticks.
The Language of Tea Liquor
An unpleasant taste associated with raw teas.
A liquor having both fullness and strength as opposed to being thin.
Bright - Denotes a lively fresh tea with good keeping quality.
Brisk - The most 'live' characteristic. Results from good manufacture.
Character - An attractive taste, specific to growth
origin describing teas grown at high altitude.
Colory - Indicates useful depth of color and strength.
Cream - A natural precipitate obtained as the liquor cools down.
Earthy - Normally caused by damp storage of tea but can
also describe a taste that is sometimes 'climatically inherent' in teas from certain regions.
Flat - Not fresh, usually due to age. Unlike some wines,
which mature with age, tea tends to lose its characteristics and taste with age.
Flavor - A most desirable extension of character caused
by slow growth at high altitudes. Relatively rare.
Fruity - Can be due to over fermenting during manufacture
and/or bacterial infection before firing or drying, which gives the
tea an over ripe taste. Unlike wines this is not a desirable taste in tea.
Full - A good combination of strength and color.
Green - When referring to black tea liquor denotes an
immature 'raw' character. This is mostly due to under
fermenting and sometimes to under withering during manufacture.
Hard - A very pungent liquor, a desirable quality in tea.
Heavy - A thick, strong and colored liquor with limited briskness.
High Fired - Over fired or dried, but not bakey or burned.
Light - Lacking strength and depth of color.
Malty - Desirable character in some Assam teas. A full,
bright tea with a malty taste.
Muscatel - Desirable character in Darjeeling teas. A grapey taste.
Point - A bright, acidic and penetrating characteristic.
Pungent - A stringent with a good combination of briskness,
brightness and strength.
Quality - Refers to 'cup quality' and denotes a
combination of the most desirable liquoring qualities.
Taint - Characteristic or taste that is foreign to tea
such as oil, garlic, etc. Often due to the tea being stored next to
other commodities with strong characteristics of their own.
Thick - Liquor with good color and strength.
Woody - A grass or hay taste associated with teas that
have been under withered during manufacture and sometimes referred
to as 'woody'.
Ellen Easton is a lifestyle industry leader, tea and etiquette authority, author of Afternoon Tea~ Tips, Terms and Traditions,
A Tea Party Planner and Tea Travels™ For The Holidays (RED WAGON PRESS), as well as a hospitality, design and retail consultant, whose clients have included The Waldorf=Astoria,
The Plaza, and Lady Mendl’s Tea Salon.
Easton’s family traces their tea roots to the early 1800s, when ancestors first introduced tea plants from India and China to the Colony of Ceylon,
thus building one of the largest and best cultivated teas estates on the island.
REVA PAUL, an internationally acclaimed confectionery artist, hand decorated floral sugars and mints are available by special
order for teas, weddings, and special events. Wholesale/Retail - Bulk & Gift boxed. All prices on request via RED WAGON PRESS (212) 722-7981.
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