Tasting techniques and other similar things


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Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby Drax » Mar 1st, '13, 21:55

This thread is a branch of a discussion from here.

TIM wrote:I think this should be a new thread, just to be respectful.

Every harvest, serious(experienced) tea buyers or collectors have to sample more than 2 or 3 tea to make a judgment, sometimes 5 samples per session, 20 plus sessions a day for a whole week. They do this without blind folding, but with correct tasting system and studying. IMHO


Good idea, TIM.

I should clarify -- what you're describing is something very different. These tea buyers do have a lot of experience and know the general profiles they're looking for, and they can probably figure it out with one taste test (along with looking at the quality of the leaf, etc). Will they make mistakes and pick a bad tea, or miss a good one? Probably, because nobody's perfect, and everybody has a bad day. But by and large, it will work quite well.

But the method that I was describing (blindfolded and multiple tastings) was to answer a very particular question about a very fine difference -- whether the saucer that sits below a cup of tea makes a difference in how the tea tastes. If we really want to seriously answer that question, we can do so in a way that attempts to minimize variables and biases, and is repeatable (all desirable things from a scientific standpoint).

But I'll be honest. I have no desire to run such experiments. I would rather simply brew my tea and enjoy it. And if I experience greater enjoyment because of the beauty of my saucer, or the way the cup feels in my hand, then I am all the more happy, regardless of why. :D
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby Tead Off » Mar 3rd, '13, 03:44

Drax wrote:This thread is a branch of a discussion from here.

TIM wrote:I think this should be a new thread, just to be respectful.

Every harvest, serious(experienced) tea buyers or collectors have to sample more than 2 or 3 tea to make a judgment, sometimes 5 samples per session, 20 plus sessions a day for a whole week. They do this without blind folding, but with correct tasting system and studying. IMHO


Good idea, TIM.

I should clarify -- what you're describing is something very different. These tea buyers do have a lot of experience and know the general profiles they're looking for, and they can probably figure it out with one taste test (along with looking at the quality of the leaf, etc). Will they make mistakes and pick a bad tea, or miss a good one? Probably, because nobody's perfect, and everybody has a bad day. But by and large, it will work quite well.

But the method that I was describing (blindfolded and multiple tastings) was to answer a very particular question about a very fine difference -- whether the saucer that sits below a cup of tea makes a difference in how the tea tastes. If we really want to seriously answer that question, we can do so in a way that attempts to minimize variables and biases, and is repeatable (all desirable things from a scientific standpoint).

But I'll be honest. I have no desire to run such experiments. I would rather simply brew my tea and enjoy it. And if I experience greater enjoyment because of the beauty of my saucer, or the way the cup feels in my hand, then I am all the more happy, regardless of why. :D

This was something the Redbaron claimed was relevant. Whether it is proveable, maybe he should do the test and then come back and inform us if he could tell the difference. I might even volunteer my blindfolding services since he's not 8000 miles away. :D
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby theredbaron » Mar 3rd, '13, 05:27

Tead Off wrote:This was something the Redbaron claimed was relevant. Whether it is proveable, maybe he should do the test and then come back and inform us if he could tell the difference. I might even volunteer my blindfolding services since he's not 8000 miles away. :D



Let the truth not spoil a good story... ;)

It was me, one more person who has done the same thing with the same tea teacher, and one more person who said that he has heard this from old tea drinkers in Taiwan.

I have also said that i am far from advanced enough to do something like this without the guidance of a good tea teacher. I doubt very much that i would be able to do anything like this on my own.

But - i have seen my teacher, and others do tests on pots that they were slightly doubtful over authenticity in the same way, by placing cups of the same brews of tea on the pots. I have tried the teas, and i found a difference (which i couldn't place - but i am just me, and the other guys were far more knowledgeable than me). But again, i would not be able to do this on my own.

But that's not really the point. I only find it very inspiring to know that there are people who know much more than i do (and most likely than i ever will know). I think it is though quite important to know that these matters are taken quite seriously by tea masters with a stellar reputation in the tea world.

I would suggest to directly take this issue up with the tea masters who do teach these things.


As to the methods of tasting.
After studying particular teas for some time, and has a certain taste parameter in his taste memory, and one goes from there. But i also find that tasting together with a tea master, through his advice and comments, my own sense of taste will be sharpened. A tea master will teach what particularities each tea is supposed to have - he will be able to give you samples of different qualities of the same tea, teaches you what you should observe in brewing particular teas, and this way help you to develop your sense of taste (and if it is a good tea master - he will help you to sharpen other senses that can be responsive to tea).
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 3rd, '13, 12:44

I feel very often it's not about how a respected tea person states something, but how his words are interpreted. Most knowledgeable tea people don't say things that they are not sure of, but sometimes their followers tend to make what they heard religious.

On the other hand, some tea teachers tend to make thing religious to begin with. I don't like it, but would be fine with it if it's not mixed with scientific facts or absolute truth.

In the described case, I think nobody could be wrong saying, "i enjoy the tea better having it in this vessel rather than that vessel." If someone say "this tea tastes better in this vessel rather than that vessel" and don't think visual factor counts, then this person himself/herself may be curious to find out if s/he is right by blindfolding. Unless it's a debate or contest (usually it's not and there is no prize...), if a person is not curious enough to test their own feelings, then it's none of others' business, right? :wink:
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby wyardley » Mar 3rd, '13, 12:50

gingkoseto wrote:I feel very often it's not about how a respected tea person states something, but how his words are interpreted. Most knowledgeable tea people don't say things that they are not sure of, but sometimes their followers tend to make what they heard religious.


Absolutely agree with this statement. I've seen this happen time and time again.
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby Drax » Mar 3rd, '13, 13:00

Well said, gingko!
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby Chip » Mar 3rd, '13, 14:44

The blindfolding is an interesting concept in that it can have very dichotomous effects ... results.

1) One I am sure we have all read that in the absence of sight via blindfolding, senses/perceptions can be really thrown out of whack. Often tasters in scientific experiments involving tasting/smelling various foods (and non food objects) give answers that are completely off. At least in our case, we know we are trying tea. Decades later, I remember doing this in elementary school ... pretty amazing.

2) Then in a very unscientific approach, I often purposely close my eyes immediately after I just poured a tea with my head hovering a foot or so above the tea table. The sense of smell and taste seem instantly cranked up ... like someone turned up a dimmer switch controlling my sense of smell and taste.

The aroma coming up from the open brew vessel and cup(s) seems "doubled." And the taste seems heightened as well. I often find myself short of words at this moment and simply utter, "wow." Seemingly as one sense is turned off, instantly others become more acutely focused.

Very interesting!
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby brunogm » Mar 3rd, '13, 15:07

I think I read some very interesting chapter on the placebo effect in Freakonomics (not 100% sure I read it in this book, but I read it somewhere).

In blind tests, people prefer Pepsi to Coca Cola. But when they are shown pictures of Coca Cola advertisements while drinking Coca Cola, they prefer Coca Cola. This was done in a scanner. Their brain scans evidence that pictures of Coca Cola stimulate the brain pleasure area.

So placebo effect is as a rule a very powerful effect, and when it comes to things we eat or drink, it is actually not something in our minds, but something very physical, with secretion of chemicals (endorphins) in this case.
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby dshu » Mar 3rd, '13, 15:26

This discussion reminds of a study I had heard about recently. Basically, the subjects were shown a pair of faces and asked to choose which one they found more attractive. The subjects were then given the picture that they selected and had to explain why they chose it over the other face. However, the scientists actually gave the subject the opposite photo, the one they didn't choose. Less 30% of the subjects actually noticed that the switch had been made! They also did this with tasting jams, and smelling teas.

Here's a link to a wired article about it
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/ ... blindness/
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 3rd, '13, 15:34

Talking about placebo effect, here is an MIT funded research showing $2.5 placebo kills pain better than 10c placebo, published in one of the biggest medical research magazines.
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/99532.php

I found it very interesting. If our bodies can kill pain based on price tag, I'm sure our bodies can appreciate tea based on price tag, packaging and other things, for good or for bad :mrgreen: Sometimes it's not bad tough. That's why I always insist in having my crappy lunch with a nice glass plate and Jingdezhen porcelain bowl :D
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 3rd, '13, 15:38

Chip wrote:2) Then in a very unscientific approach, I often purposely close my eyes immediately after I just poured a tea with my head hovering a foot or so above the tea table. The sense of smell and taste seem instantly cranked up ... like someone turned up a dimmer switch controlling my sense of smell and taste.

The aroma coming up from the open brew vessel and cup(s) seems "doubled." And the taste seems heightened as well. I often find myself short of words at this moment and simply utter, "wow." Seemingly as one sense is turned off, instantly others become more acutely focused.

Very interesting!


This is indeed very interesting. I guess that's why many people would unconsciously close their eyes when tasting something really good or listening to good music. I also notice that Yoyo Ma has this very funny facial expression with eyes half closed when he plays :mrgreen:
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby edkrueger » Mar 3rd, '13, 15:44

brunogm wrote:In blind tests, people prefer Pepsi to Coca Cola. But when they are shown pictures of Coca Cola advertisements while drinking Coca Cola, they prefer Coca Cola. This was done in a scanner. Their brain scans evidence that pictures of Coca Cola stimulate the brain pleasure area.


Brain scans to test preferences? That sounds fishy.
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby theredbaron » Mar 3rd, '13, 16:04

As what i stated, regarding that the material/age/etc of what one places his cups on (and yes, Lim Ping Xiang does state that with certainty, and demonstrates this regularly - as also one poster here has confirmed who drank tea with him in London) i am getting serial knocked on the head here - i would like to ask a question to my detractors here:

How many of you have had the chance to drink tea with a recognized Chinese tea master? And if you have had the chance - what are the views of these masters on this issue?

Instead of applying sarcasm, why don't you try to find out if this may not be an established and long known phenomenon in tea culture that you simply have not yet come across in your studies? Just because something hasn't been written about in the blogosphere does not equate that it does not exist.

For your average Lipton tea bag user, the idea that different water may affect the tea may already be slightly esoteric, and if you would introduce to this person the concept (which here on this forum is established enough) that the material of the vessel you boil water in will influence the taste of tea - the Lipton tea bag user will most likely think you are a bit odd.

Now as i do not see anyone here having brought up an authority in the tea world that disagrees with this concept (or agrees, for that matter) - i am sorry to be frank here - but i do find the discourse how some of my detractors lead it slightly narrow.
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby Chip » Mar 3rd, '13, 16:34

Given the propensity of falsehoods circulated on the various subjects of tea ... and even blatant fraud, it is only logical that there would be a degree of skepticism to something that seems really out there to a "grounded" Western reader ... and this does seem pretty far out. This is not sarcasm, just Western PoV of an Eastern unknown.

The discussion has room for two sides. One side would seek logical explanations for results while the other believes regardless of lack of logical explanations to the contrary. This is nothing new, is it? This has been occurring for millennia. There have always been believers and doubters of the unexplainable.

We can easily grasp that materials that touch our tea and water could have an effect on the resulting brew. It is a farther reach for us to grasp the concept of saucer material having an effect on the resulting brew.

Plus there is the reality that for the vast majority of us, access to a tea master of any kind is not feasible.

Nevertheless, I read with a degree of interest and a lesser degree of curiousity. This discussion is not likely to have any impact on how or why I enjoy tea ... just saying.
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Re: Tasting techniques and other similar things

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 3rd, '13, 16:50

theredbaron, I don't think people (or most people) meant to be sarcastic here, and I think Drax has clarified it at the beginning that this is not about knocking heads.

As for your question "How many of you have had the chance to drink tea with a recognized Chinese tea master?" That's actually a classic question discussed a few times on tea forums and especially teachat. I believe it's precious experience, but not essential experience for people to discuss tea in depth.

Besides, I always have this question in mind, "what's a tea master?" Is "master" an English language thing that I have difficulty understanding or is "tea master" a phenomenon in tea world? Generally I understand a tea master is somebody who is very knowledgeable about tea. But I'm not sure what's the definition of tea master and what's not. I've met a bunch of tea scientists who study on growing tea and biochemical research of tea, and exceptional tea workers whose skills are at the rim of extinction, and very devoted and brilliant tea producers, tea scholars, tea historians and tea educators. Rarely I heard any of them being called "tea master". I feel it's probably because the Chinese word equivalent of "master" (maestro?) would be either very serious that's reserved for people like Confucius, or would be used in rather sarcastic way. But after all, I guess most "tea masters" or great tea people would agree that many tea questions don't have single answers. So it's great to learn from knowledgeable people, but good answers don't have to always come from recognized or famous tea people.

The specific question op proposed is pretty much a testable question, and then the answer doesn't rely on any person, but simply on the test result.
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