Help educate me and my palate

Fully oxidized tea leaves for a robust cup.

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Jan 16th, '08, 08:43
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Help educate me and my palate

by osadczuk » Jan 16th, '08, 08:43

So, I'm fairly new to the whole higher tiers of tea thing. Mind you, I have a decent palate and can learn - as, well, I'm a coffee connoisseur. I can distinguish between the flavors of different varietals, roasts, blends, etc. But I did take some time and the ability to brew it properly in order to bring out all of the nuances (the lesson being: if you're not going to use a french press, don't bother.)

So can you help me learn tea, specifically black?

Help me learn the differences between tastes and growing regions, etc.

Help me quench the overwhelming desire to drink everything with milk and sugar.

Basically this question, but for black teas.


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Jan 16th, '08, 10:49
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by hop_goblin » Jan 16th, '08, 10:49

You are certainly asking a lot; especially if you want us to change how you personally drink tea. IMHO I believe the only way you will accomplish your needs are to to drink and compare teas, visit tea blogs and compare your tasting notes, read - the net is wonderful for providing tea info, and lastly, just don't pour milk or sugar in your teas! :lol: Oh, and most of all, ask specific questions on this forum. I will be glad to help as well as all of the other fine people on here!


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Jan 16th, '08, 10:58
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by Mary R » Jan 16th, '08, 10:58

Hop's right...experience is sort of key on this one. Besides, everyone's sense of taste is a bit different. Hop might say a tea has a barbeque tone, whereas I might pull a strong note of stone fruits. It's all relative.

If you're looking for a book, Jane Pettigrew's "The Tea Companion: A Connoisseur's Guide" is pretty decent, especially for beginners. The characteristics she gives for certain teas are detailed enough to be helpful, but ambiguous enough to not over-influence your palate. Most of them just provide the bones, like saying a tea is "smoky," or "delicate" or "astringent."

Anything more detailed than that is probably best found in the blogs.

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Jan 16th, '08, 11:45
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by xine » Jan 16th, '08, 11:45

I agree with what Hop and Mary have said. Also, Pettigrew's book is quite good. I also suggest trying out a variety of black teas from different regions/countries, such as two different Darjeeling- first flush vs second flush, etc to understand the different nuances. And again, feel free to post away on this message board; many of us will be more than happy to help and advise!

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Jan 16th, '08, 12:03
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by Wesli » Jan 16th, '08, 12:03

True, tastes of certain teas even among the connoisseurship vary. The best thing is that you already have the desire to find out, and to not add milk and sugar. This is the most important part.

As you should know, training the palate takes patience and careful dissection of tastes. I agree with Hop, taking a look at vendor's notes (albeit they're the weirdest), and fellow tea-blogger's notes can really help you to find all there is in a tea. I suggest getting as many samples, from as many different growing areas as possible.

People often use milk and sugar because they're used to their tea being bitter, and low quality. Once you dive into our high-quality, loose-leaf tea, you'll find that tea is wonderful as is. It can be sweet without sugar, and rich without cream. The real things that help here are to 1. Buy whole leaf, 2. Buy high-quality leaf, and 3. Learn how to brew it right. My suggestions for number 3 are to ask around the forums. Brewing parameters are some of the questions we answer the most. Brewing parameters are made up of a few things: leaf amount, temperature of water, brewing time, and the brewing vessel.

Here are a few:
Black: Boiling water, 3-5 minutes (5 absolute most), and leaf amount varies from person to person. I brew mine in a gaiwan, but large english pots are well-used for black tea.
Green: Under 180°f water, under 2 minutes, and about 1 tsp to 3-5oz water. There are so many different kinds of green tea, so its hard to give advice here. The parameters above are best for Japanese green tea, but can also be applied to most greens. Chinese greens, however, like lower water temperatures.

That's a good start, let us knwo if you have any more questions.

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Jan 16th, '08, 12:28
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by scruffmcgruff » Jan 16th, '08, 12:28

I would echo the previous comments, and also add this: look at reviews and tasting notes of teas, but try to come up with your own impression of it before being influenced by others.

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