How to write about tea?


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How to write about tea?

Postby futurebird » Mar 10th, '13, 13:46

What things do you find most useful when reading a review of a tea?

For me, I find that it is helpful if the reviewer isn't skimpy on practical details like color, how they brewed the tea etc. I also find that comparisons to other specific teas are often not helpful (especially since I'm new to drinking tea and don't have a lot of experience) -- but I could see how this might help a more seasoned reviewer *though such a person might not need help from reviews as much as newbies do!)

I also think there is an emotional/introspective component to tea, I do like knowing how tea makes people feel, even though I hardly ever have the same results.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby ChengduCha » Mar 11th, '13, 10:27

I like flavor descriptions that aren't too poetic and refer to things most people can relate to i.e. flowers, liquorice etc. instead of abstract descriptions like boots, books, leather etc. that won't make much sense to anyone else.

Color is not really important, a look at the leafs before and after the brew is more interesting.

Hobbes of http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/ is a good writer in most people's opinion for example.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby JakubT » Mar 11th, '13, 10:54

ChengduCha wrote:I like flavor descriptions that aren't too poetic and refer to things most people can relate to i.e. flowers, liquorice etc. instead of abstract descriptions like boots, books, leather etc. that won't make much sense to anyone else.

Color is not really important, a look at the leafs before and after the brew is more interesting.


How is leather different from flowers? I mean, it is obviously a different thing, but I think that leatheriness (as the smell of leather bag) is quite sensible to use.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby SilentChaos » Mar 11th, '13, 10:57

ChengduCha wrote:Color is not really important, a look at the leafs before and after the brew is more interesting.


Colour of the tea liquor is one out of many factors, some of which you mention, in evaluating many teas, roasted oolongs, aged oolongs, sencha, gyo, gushu puerh, aged puerh, longjing etc.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby MarshalN » Mar 11th, '13, 11:11

I find all descriptors to be rather useless. I mean, my idea of "smoky" might not be your idea of smoky, and sometimes people can't even agree on what some terms that I thought are basic might mean - for example, when I wrote about sourness, lots of people had a simple question - how can tea be sour? Well, it can be, but a lot of people either don't think about it as sourness, or in many cases haven't really experienced sourness in a tea. If that's the case, it's very difficult to talk about it in a meaningful way.

As for technical stuff like colour, there are simply too many variables that will change how the tea behave. For example, the colour of the way the tea brews changes from infusion to infusion, and more importantly, it changes depending on the water you use, and the depth of your cup, etc. Colour also has little to no relation to how a tea taste - a great tea can look rather insipid, while a bad tea can look really good, until you put it in your mouth. So, what's the use of including colour, when colour has almost nothing to do with what happens in your mouth, which is presumably what really matters?
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby SilentChaos » Mar 11th, '13, 11:18

MarshalN wrote:I find all descriptors to be rather useless. ... Colour also has little to no relation to how a tea taste - a great tea can look rather insipid, while a bad tea can look really good, until you put it in your mouth. So, what's the use of including colour, when colour has almost nothing to do with what happens in your mouth, which is presumably what really matters?


Indeed. I generally don't find much descriptions of tea useful in any definitive way myself either. The only reliable thing I know that works is to taste and sample, and a lot it. However, if I had to choose a tea without being able to taste it first, like say online, I'd prefer to have such information. If I'm looking for a light roast, light oxidation gaoshan oolong, I certainly don't want to see pictures of dark leaves and red liquor.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby JakubT » Mar 11th, '13, 11:37

I guess that description of tastes is subjective, but if a writer is consistent, it may be still helpful, especially after "calibration". E.g., I was somewhat puzzled by Hobbes' "buttery", but when I tasted some teas from him and read where he wrote buttery and where not, I sort of knew what he ment. Therefore, if he writes about butteriness now, I can imagine that part of the taste.

Also, I find descriptions of tastes more useful when more people write about a tea as one may see where the people agreed and where not - there is a good likelyhood that one will taste the tastes that many people agreed upon.

All that said, I take other people's writings only as a weak recommendation for/against a tea. But people are different, their waters are different and so many other things are different, that I very seldom/never thought "I have to have this", after reading someone's notes on a tea.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby teaisme » Mar 11th, '13, 13:33

I think writing down whatever you feel comfortable and natural would be more interesting to read then trying to fit into a certain mold. Change and improvements will come soon enough after, plus you get to watch your own evolution as a writer and tea drinker. That is a valuable thing to see no?
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby sherubtse » Mar 11th, '13, 14:56

MarshalN wrote:Colour also has little to no relation to how a tea taste - a great tea can look rather insipid, while a bad tea can look really good, until you put it in your mouth. So, what's the use of including colour, when colour has almost nothing to do with what happens in your mouth, which is presumably what really matters?


I think that colour can *to some degree* give an indication of taste. For example, a pale yellow sencha will almost invariably taste differently than one with dark green leaves.

I am one that values the appearance of the leaves (both pre- and post-infusion) as well as the taste of the liquor. Some teas have lovely green leaves, while others are formed into very attractive shapes. Taste is the most important factor, of course, but physical appearance is also an important part of the total "tea experience" for me.

Best wishes,
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby futurebird » Mar 11th, '13, 19:28

When I was thinking about color I was joust thinking abou the basic information about how dark the brew was. This lets me know if I'm steeping long enough or getting the water temp right or using enough tea or the right wares.

Nothing too mystical.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby Fabien » Mar 11th, '13, 20:04

Tough and complex question.

First of all, we should probably write in english... which can be quite tough for a number of us not born in an english-speaking country. And if some of you know how bad our language-teaching classes are in France, you can easily measure that difficulty :wink:
It took me several hours to translate my last article in english... and I'm pretty sure it's far from good :?

Even better would be to be able to read chinese and japanese... :(

And then, how are we going to bring something interesting to our fellow tea-drinkers? I'm personnaly not really fond of describing by the menu the teas I drink... too many differences between all of us, even when a same tea is tasted by different persons. If the question of this topic was "how to write about teas", I think it can be interesting if one wants to have general ideas on a family of teas. It could be yancha for example or maybe chinese vs japanese greens. But I'm not sure one's feelings can be easily understandable to others... excepted what has been said previously when you get to know very precisely one's tea tastes.

On the other hand, if the question was "how to write about Tea (in general)", there's probably an infinite space of expression. Because every one of us will have a different approach : spirituality, teawares of a particular type, a limited family of teas, historical/geographical infos about tea, arts graviting around chadao and sado, etc...
That's what I'm more inclined to do. It's also what interests me the most in the other blogs. Among others, I pretty much like MarshalN's "Tea Addicts Journal" 's approach, which mixes nicely the two ideas, with a real personal expression.

Neverending possibilities.
And what better place than our blogs and teachat to gather around a cup when we don't live next door? Thanks Teachat!!!

Edit : Ok, should have read more carefully, it's in the pu forum, talking about tasting notes...
Last edited by Fabien on Mar 12th, '13, 07:14, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby ChengduCha » Mar 12th, '13, 05:03

JakubT wrote:How is leather different from flowers? I mean, it is obviously a different thing, but I think that leatheriness (as the smell of leather bag) is quite sensible to use.


I just haven't eaten leather :D , but if it's just about the smell it's easily conveyed. I was referring to taste though. In the end it's all quite subjective and in some countries liquorice probably isn't eaten either, so people will be at a loss how it tastes like.

A flowery sheng taste is usually more or less the same and people who have had some will understand what it means.

The main thing I'm trying to say is to keep the description of the taste at a level that allows a broad audience to assemble it in their mind into a solid idea about the tea.

When I'm reading wine reviews for example, many reviewers seem to want to dissemble the taste into all it's details, which leaves me as a reader unable to form a basic idea about the wine that is being reviewed when it lists a dozen fruits and what not.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby ChengduCha » Mar 12th, '13, 05:06

SilentChaos wrote:
ChengduCha wrote:Color is not really important, a look at the leafs before and after the brew is more interesting.


Colour of the tea liquor is one out of many factors, some of which you mention, in evaluating many teas, roasted oolongs, aged oolongs, sencha, gyo, gushu puerh, aged puerh, longjing etc.


To me the color doesn't matter, because it usually doesn't relate to the taste at all and the colors in pictures are usually way off unless you do some editing in photoshop / your photo editing software of choice to get it to resemble reality.

I have had plenty of weak shengs for example with a strong orange liquor color and plenty of strong ones too.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby SilentChaos » Mar 12th, '13, 07:06

ChengduCha wrote:
SilentChaos wrote:
ChengduCha wrote:Color is not really important, a look at the leafs before and after the brew is more interesting.


Colour of the tea liquor is one out of many factors, some of which you mention, in evaluating many teas, roasted oolongs, aged oolongs, sencha, gyo, gushu puerh, aged puerh, longjing etc.


To me the color doesn't matter, because it usually doesn't relate to the taste at all and the colors in pictures are usually way off unless you do some editing in photoshop / your photo editing software of choice to get it to resemble reality.

I have had plenty of weak shengs for example with a strong orange liquor color and plenty of strong ones too.


I'm not claiming that colour of leaf or liquor is some overriding determinant. I'm objecting to your claim that colour doesn't relate to taste at all. Oxidation, roast, post-fermentation and age etc can all change the colour both leaf and liquor, not in an absolute fashion but at least there are common tendencies. Now, these processing and storage factors surely relate to taste. So I'm saying that colour (when accurately represented) can/should be taken into account in trying to guess at the GENERAL profile of a tea. Yes, a lot of factors in the brewing can affect colour too, but doesn't this hold true for looking at leaf before and after brewing too? Then by your logic, we shouldn't look at the tea at all in reviews. And since the OP was talking about reviews, I assumed an online context where one can't taste the tea in question.
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Re: How to write about tea?

Postby ChengduCha » Mar 12th, '13, 08:10

SilentChaos wrote: Yes, a lot of factors in the brewing can affect colour too, but doesn't this hold true for looking at leaf before and after brewing too? Then by your logic, we shouldn't look at the tea at all in reviews.


I'm not experienced enough to tell much from leafs unlike other people, however they seem to give away further information such as possible old tree, possible origin if none is on the wrapper, lots of broken leafs which might explain taste differences etc.

The only reason why I'd want to see the liquor is probably clarity, which plays some role for shu pu (bad shu pu usually doesn't produce a clear liquor).

With all that being said, I'm always happy to look at pictures of the liquor, I just can't be bothered to take any myself most of the time because of the reasoning mentioned above. :)
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