This article relies largely or entirely on a single source. (October 2019)
Tea tasting is the process in which a trained taster determines the quality of a particular tea. Due to climatic conditions, topography, manufacturing process, and different cultivars of the Camellia sinensis plant (tea), the final product may have vastly differing flavours and appearance. These differences can be tasted by a trained taster in order to ascertain the quality prior to sale or possibly blending tea.
The taster's objectives depend on the intended purpose of a tea. The qualities desired for a tea for blending with other teas can be quite different from the qualities desired for a tea ready for drinking.
The ISO 3103 standard describes a standardised method for brewing teas in order to make meaningful sensory comparisons between them. It is not a particularly useful standard for many teas, however, requiring a six-minute brewing time and boiling water, neither of which are recommended for green teas (usually brewed at < 90 °C and for under 3 minutes). Tea tasters would instead usually taste teas which have been brewed according to the recommendations of the producer.
A tea taster uses a large spoon and noisily slurps the liquid into his/her mouth - this ensures that both the tea and plenty of oxygen is passed over all the taste receptors on the tongue to give an even taste profile of the tea. The liquid is then usually spat back out into a spittoon before moving onto the next sample to taste. A 'cupping set' is used for tasting tea and is always white in colour to allow examination of both liquor and the leaf. The set consists of a small cup with a lid, in which the tea leaves are placed along with the water to brew, and a small, rounded cup from which to taste the tea. The flavour characteristics and indeed leaf colour, size and shape are graded using a specific language created by the tea industry to explain the overall quality. Generally speaking, once the quality has been tasted/graded, each tea company places a value on it based on market trends, availability and demand.
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