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Delicious and in-vig-or-a-ting! Wheeee! I think it is called Mountain Malt because it is so strong that when you are finished your cup, you truly believe you have enough energy to climb a mountain ;) I love the bready malty flavor with the underlying earthiness. I really, really love the strength on days like today when I will be going, going, going til 9pm!

You may have noticed that I took the rating off of this tea. I have recently read a book about wine called Liquid Memory by Jonathan Nossiter. It has really made me think about a bunch of things, not just wine. One of them is numerical rating systems.

Warning! This is going to be long! :)

This is what he has to say:

Of course one has to distinguish between classifying wines – expressing hierarchies of preference – and scoring them. There is a profound difference between the admirably restrained critic Michael Broadbent’s purposefully malleable five star rating and a pseudo precise one hundred point scoring system. …These stars are explicitly variable and general and he insists that the expression of preference is dependent on the precise circumstances that the wine was tasted in …

… The numerical point system inherently implies a mathematical certainty, whether out of twenty or one hundred points. However absurd, this ersatz scientificity is perfectly suited to a culture uneasy with the notion of informed critical judgement coexisting with ambiguity and complexity. This culture prefers specious absolutes, an infantile and incomprehensible language for which no real engagement is required and a falsely pedaled sense of democracy, the fatuous reassurance of pseudo facts and factoids. This has been true from the dominant political discourse since Reagan, across the globe’s television screens, right into the computers of the self appointed custodians of our wine culture.

… Consumers all over the world have now become accustomed to seek out “Parker 95 wines” or “Wine Spectator 90s” no longer sure of, or necessarily interested in, the wine’s origins, makers, or contexts. Parker, the Wine Spectator, and other “serial scorers” reassure people who are insecure about wine but who want to be “winners.” … Hence, there is a gradual inflation of 90 point wines, as the Christie’s director said about the contemporary art world, to increase the supply of winners and keep everybody in the game renumerated. Imagine: Matisse! 95 points! Chagall 99 points! Jeff Koons 100 points! … But poor old dirty, messy, edgy George Rouault wouldn’t get above a 75. To assign numbers to a wine, given that a wine is fully living and infinitely mutable, is almost as repugnant to me as assigning numerical worth to humans. (pgs 148-9)

You get the idea. Long story short – I’ve always been uneasy about my numerical ratings, and after reading this book I want to get rid of them! I am going to stop giving numerical ratings to teas, and as I drink teas that I have logged before, I am going to delete my numerical ratings.

I was debating putting this up in discussions, but I was afraid it may cause a ruckus – which is not my intent. I simply want to explain why I personally am not doing numerical ratings anymore. I’m going to link to this tea log in my profile so my explanation will be “public.”

I highly recommend this book, and Nossiter’s film Mondovino if you are interested in not only wine, but globalization, taste, culture, art…

Preparation
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LiberTEAS

I agree with you. The ratings that I give aren’t even really systematic in any way, it just happens to be how I feel about a tea at the time of consumption. I don’t even give much merit into the numeric ratings of other people of these teas, I read the notes and that influences me far more than the numeric rating.

Ewa

Pfft, your wine guy is so behind the times, video gamers have been having this discussion for AGES. I agree that people rely on numbers a bit too much – that goes for wine, video games, movies, whatever. That said, I think numerical ratings do have their uses: 1. they make things easy for beginners: if I know jack-all about wine, but I don’t want to embarrass myself when taking a bottle to a friend’s house, then yes, a numerical score can be a pretty handy starting point.
2. They can be a useful comparative tool if understood within the context of a reviewers entire body of work. This doesn’t work as well with wine, but say on Steepster or on a video game site/magazine/whatever. If you get to know the reviewer’s tastes, you can figure out what they mean when they give a certain score and measure that against your own tastes. Of course, that requires both paying attention to actual written reviews and treating reviewers as individuals with different tastes, which I think are the REAL problems.
On the other other hand, I almost never look at the number scores on Steepster unless they are low (because then they are orange!)
Anyway, just my two cents! You realize that you are just going to get a ruckus in your comments instead of in discussions :P

JacquelineM

Ewa – I’m glad for the mini ruckus in comments :) I didn’t want to come off like I was challenging the way The Overlords built Steepster, esp since they built it so that you could not assign a rating and delete ratings. I think Steepster is great to allow maximum user freedom.

Again to go back to wine talk, we have a local shop which is pretty amazing. They have a little essay about the store and they say that they won’t tell you that they will help you demystify wine drinking, but they can help you explore the mystery. That’s how I feel about tea too :) For me personally, number ratings are not helping explore the mystery, but serve to try and pseudo break down/categorize/put in a little box the mystery. And I rather not :)

That’s really interesting – I had no idea this debate goes on in the gaming world too!! Neat! It’s also something I think a lot about as I get ready to be a teacher – the grading bugaboo. Oh dear.

ashmanra

When I go to Physical Therapy, they ask me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten. They should ask me what tea I had that morning. Queen Catherine (she soothes me when I hurt) means I was at a four, Supreme Breakfast is a three, and English Breakfast means I am not hurting at all! Do you think they will go for my new system?

JacquelineM

ashmanra – I have a package all ready for you – going to the post office today on my lunch break :) HOPING that will mean lots of zeros and ones at PT! :) :) :) I’m not sure if PT will go for your new system but I will use my secret retired international spy powers to try and convince them. Don’t be surprised if they ask what tea you had the next time you go in for a session ;)

Ewa

Yeah, the whole “score inflation” problem is huge in video game reviews. Most sites have adopted the 7-9 scale, no games get below a seven, just because review sites want to keep getting free review copies…

I have to wonder if this isn’t actually a direct result of the grading bugaboo (I like this term and will use it forever). Any(American)one who has gone through the public school system is basically conditioned to perceive numbers below 70 as “failing.” Which is silly, because there are MORE numbers below 70 than above and if they are all useless then what is the point of them except to make people feel really really stupid.

sophistre

I agree with pretty much all of this. Aside from the problems with the way averages are gotten…palates are different and they change with time, the more experiences one has. Tastes drift.

I think this is why my rating system has always just been personal — i.e., my probability of drinking something or having it in my cupboard, not its actual quality.

And even that changes. I’ve redone the numbers many times!

Paul M Tracy

I agree too. I’ve only been here a short time, but I’ve already noticed that all of my numeric ratings are “clumped.” I have a few really high ones, then the rest are around 80-ish then a few really gross teas are at the bottom. A simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down might be better.

ashmanra

I also have changed a lot since I started drinking tea. Some I steeped all wrong and they wre bitter. I used to put sugar in everything and milk in most. When you change those habits, your ratings change….A LOT! So I agree – they can be very misleading.

Ricky

From now on I’m going to comment on your tasting logs with a number. This number will represent what your rating would have been :D

I’d say you’d give this one a 90. If you don’t agree feel free to correct me =]

JacquelineM

LOLOL.

(you are pretty much correct! I remember I rated it a 100, but that could have been the caffeine talkin’)

sophistre

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Ricky, you crack me up.

Ricky

Glad I could bring some laughter into your day =D

Jacqueline, I’m going to rate all your logs! You just wait! Steepster shall not be deprived of your ratings.

jenny wren

I’ve only posted 3 ratings so far, but on the first one I tried to give it a rating, and by the second one decided it was silly for me. Something like the way tea tastes is too complex for me to try to pin down with a number.

~lauren.

Sorry for the late comment – just saw this post. I am glad that Steepster is versatile enough to accommodate you, JacquelineM! I am still posting numbers but like a comment above intimated, it is pretty subjective. I still love to read your blurbs/posts about the various teas so I am glad I am not deprived of your opinions!

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Comments

LiberTEAS

I agree with you. The ratings that I give aren’t even really systematic in any way, it just happens to be how I feel about a tea at the time of consumption. I don’t even give much merit into the numeric ratings of other people of these teas, I read the notes and that influences me far more than the numeric rating.

Ewa

Pfft, your wine guy is so behind the times, video gamers have been having this discussion for AGES. I agree that people rely on numbers a bit too much – that goes for wine, video games, movies, whatever. That said, I think numerical ratings do have their uses: 1. they make things easy for beginners: if I know jack-all about wine, but I don’t want to embarrass myself when taking a bottle to a friend’s house, then yes, a numerical score can be a pretty handy starting point.
2. They can be a useful comparative tool if understood within the context of a reviewers entire body of work. This doesn’t work as well with wine, but say on Steepster or on a video game site/magazine/whatever. If you get to know the reviewer’s tastes, you can figure out what they mean when they give a certain score and measure that against your own tastes. Of course, that requires both paying attention to actual written reviews and treating reviewers as individuals with different tastes, which I think are the REAL problems.
On the other other hand, I almost never look at the number scores on Steepster unless they are low (because then they are orange!)
Anyway, just my two cents! You realize that you are just going to get a ruckus in your comments instead of in discussions :P

JacquelineM

Ewa – I’m glad for the mini ruckus in comments :) I didn’t want to come off like I was challenging the way The Overlords built Steepster, esp since they built it so that you could not assign a rating and delete ratings. I think Steepster is great to allow maximum user freedom.

Again to go back to wine talk, we have a local shop which is pretty amazing. They have a little essay about the store and they say that they won’t tell you that they will help you demystify wine drinking, but they can help you explore the mystery. That’s how I feel about tea too :) For me personally, number ratings are not helping explore the mystery, but serve to try and pseudo break down/categorize/put in a little box the mystery. And I rather not :)

That’s really interesting – I had no idea this debate goes on in the gaming world too!! Neat! It’s also something I think a lot about as I get ready to be a teacher – the grading bugaboo. Oh dear.

ashmanra

When I go to Physical Therapy, they ask me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten. They should ask me what tea I had that morning. Queen Catherine (she soothes me when I hurt) means I was at a four, Supreme Breakfast is a three, and English Breakfast means I am not hurting at all! Do you think they will go for my new system?

JacquelineM

ashmanra – I have a package all ready for you – going to the post office today on my lunch break :) HOPING that will mean lots of zeros and ones at PT! :) :) :) I’m not sure if PT will go for your new system but I will use my secret retired international spy powers to try and convince them. Don’t be surprised if they ask what tea you had the next time you go in for a session ;)

Ewa

Yeah, the whole “score inflation” problem is huge in video game reviews. Most sites have adopted the 7-9 scale, no games get below a seven, just because review sites want to keep getting free review copies…

I have to wonder if this isn’t actually a direct result of the grading bugaboo (I like this term and will use it forever). Any(American)one who has gone through the public school system is basically conditioned to perceive numbers below 70 as “failing.” Which is silly, because there are MORE numbers below 70 than above and if they are all useless then what is the point of them except to make people feel really really stupid.

sophistre

I agree with pretty much all of this. Aside from the problems with the way averages are gotten…palates are different and they change with time, the more experiences one has. Tastes drift.

I think this is why my rating system has always just been personal — i.e., my probability of drinking something or having it in my cupboard, not its actual quality.

And even that changes. I’ve redone the numbers many times!

Paul M Tracy

I agree too. I’ve only been here a short time, but I’ve already noticed that all of my numeric ratings are “clumped.” I have a few really high ones, then the rest are around 80-ish then a few really gross teas are at the bottom. A simple thumbs-up or thumbs-down might be better.

ashmanra

I also have changed a lot since I started drinking tea. Some I steeped all wrong and they wre bitter. I used to put sugar in everything and milk in most. When you change those habits, your ratings change….A LOT! So I agree – they can be very misleading.

Ricky

From now on I’m going to comment on your tasting logs with a number. This number will represent what your rating would have been :D

I’d say you’d give this one a 90. If you don’t agree feel free to correct me =]

JacquelineM

LOLOL.

(you are pretty much correct! I remember I rated it a 100, but that could have been the caffeine talkin’)

sophistre

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Ricky, you crack me up.

Ricky

Glad I could bring some laughter into your day =D

Jacqueline, I’m going to rate all your logs! You just wait! Steepster shall not be deprived of your ratings.

jenny wren

I’ve only posted 3 ratings so far, but on the first one I tried to give it a rating, and by the second one decided it was silly for me. Something like the way tea tastes is too complex for me to try to pin down with a number.

~lauren.

Sorry for the late comment – just saw this post. I am glad that Steepster is versatile enough to accommodate you, JacquelineM! I am still posting numbers but like a comment above intimated, it is pretty subjective. I still love to read your blurbs/posts about the various teas so I am glad I am not deprived of your opinions!

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Profile

Bio

I love to cook, bake, read, paint, knit, do needlework, and garden. I need my coffee, but I LOVE my tea. I work at an Art School, and attend a large public university doing post-bac work (my BA is in English). I’m interested in the liminal spaces between art and craft, the academic and the practical, the individual and community, and the old and the new. I’m currently exploring these ideas through the disciplines of education, literature, history, and psychology.

I enjoy writing tasting notes, but have decided not to numerically rate teas as of 9/14/10. For an explanation, see my looooong tasting note about Mountain Malt from the Simple Leaf.

My favorites:
Chinese black teas
A good “milk and sugar” English style black
Earl Grey (classic, and in all variations!)
Vanilla teas (classic, and in all variations!)
Jasmine, Rose, Violet and other froofy, flowery teas!
An Occasional Oolong
Flavored Rooibos
Herbal Tisanes

Location

Collingswood, NJ

Website

http://jackiemania.wordpress....

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