The Art of tasting tea

The aim of tasting tea is to deepen our relation to tea and develop our knowledge and experience of each type of tea. You need to pay close attention to your  teas, your utensils and how they interact with one another. Tasting tea improves the ability to focus and sharpens your senses to detect subtle flavors and aromas. Let’s see the aspects of the examination.

Selecting tea and utensils

Choose an hour for tea tasting, when you can devote enough time without interruptions. Consider your state of mind, the season and the time of day. Select a type of tea that is not conflicting with the state of your environment and state of your mind. This is a basis of better perception. Choose a brewing vessel that best explores the character of the tea; whose shape and material enhances and supports the full flavor of the chosen tea, whose size is appropriate to the number of participants.

Water selection

Water is the mother of tea. Even the best quality tea will be spoilt when using mediocre water. Attention to choosing the right water is therefore imperative. Lu Yu, one of the first tea masters, researched water that was suitable for brewing tea all over China. He identified 22 natural springs, river sections, and streams that he found satisfactory. Getting good water is easier nowadays, but still requires attention. If you manage to find particularly good water, introduce it also to your guests along with the chosen tea.

The three-sip rule

A cup of tea should first be smelled to prepare our senses, then consumed in 3 sips. In the first sip, the hot liquor covers our entire palate and tongue, awakens our taste buds, and warms our mouth.

With the second, longer sip, rinse your entire mouth and swallow slowly. Now we can fully sense the flavor and be able to judge its complexity and beauty. The third sip reinforces the sensory experience and the effects of tea, energy and serenity flow through our body.

Tasting aspects

Hue and brightness of the dry tea leaves

Good quality dry tea leaves are vibrant with an oily, bright hue. It’s important that the leaves should have a uniform shape and color.

First fragrance

After waking up the tea, it is worth smelling the freshly hydrated leaves. The first fragrance indicates the quality of the tea and gives a good clue how best to prepare it. The sensation is created in the nose.

The color of the liquor

We want the liquor to be clean, translucent, bright in color and without deposits. An opaque, cloudy liquor with floating pieces and bottom sediment is not a good sign. Visual characteristics include even the adhesion and density that can be observed on the spout surface and at the bottom of the cup.

The smell and aroma of the liquor

The aroma of high-quality tea is intense and bursting, yet harmonious and uniform. It is important to recognize the type specific flavor and to isolate foreign or irritating aromas. The scorched, musty burnt, moldy, or sour aroma suggests that the tea has undergone poor processing, poor storage, and negative transformation. The aroma sensation is triggered by volatile molecules rising from the oral cavity into the nose.

The taste of the liquor

The taste of good quality tea is full-bodied with the bitter and sweet flavor components are in balance and the fruity and mineral notes that are characteristic of its terroir are perceivable. Good tea is not only delicious, but also complex, deep and endurant: provides many enjoyable steeps, consuming it is instructive and fun like a good book. The taste of the liquor is felt on the palate and on the surface of the tongue.

It is worth to pay attention to 4 aspects in the tea’s flavor:

Cha Yun: content, complexity;

Hui Gan: recurring sweetness, or throat rhyme, can be felt from the throat when swallowed.

Aftertaste: 1-2 minutes after swallowing, a taste in the mouth that lasts for a long time. Tea experts say the long aftertaste is more important than the instant taste of the tea, as it can be felt in the mouth for much longer.

Acidity: A bitter, drying sensation in the mouth that should be mentioned in connection with tea. This can be a good or bad sign, depending on the tea.

The strength and effect of tea

The strength and effect of tea is given by its caffeine content and energy value. The type of shrub, the growing area and the method of processing are decisive in both respects. In addition, the caffeine content depends on the proportion of fresh buds, and the energy value also depends on the age and size of the tea tree. A well-known concept in relation to the effect of tea is Cha Qi, or the original energy of tea, which is added to the energy of man. Teas with high Qi evoke a light, satisfied, open feeling and joy in a person, making it easier to share their experiences with both the tea and the things in life.

Durability or finish

Good tea is delicious over many steepings, with its complexity not disappearing, but mere diminishing. Multiple brewing of the leaves help us develop our senses and attention span – with the finishing tea our thoughts also slowly get quieter and cleaner.

The soaked tea leaf

After making tea, the fully soaked leaves look similar to their original state. The quality of the tea, the age of the leaves, the origin and authenticity of the tea can be deduced from the soaked tea leaves. Very important information can be inferred for tea experts. If the tea leaves are soft and supple, the tea is made of good quality young leaves. Lots of fragmented parts, leaf stalks, rough surface, blackness, burnt spots are not a good sign. Based on the soaked tea leaf, even laymen can easily tell if they are tricked with shu puerh instead of old sheng puerh. The soaked leaves of the old sheng puerh are brownish-gray-green, whereas the soaked leaves of the shu puerh are brownish black.


For Westerners, just like wine tasting, tea tasting holds joyful revelations. The taste and smell of tea may bring curious, old memories to mind, or evoke previous flavor sensations.