What do you look for in a tea?
I look for a good visually pleasing green liquor color, fruity undertones, and resilience (how many times if can be steeped).
How about you guys?
This depends strongly on what sort of tea I’m drinking, actually, but since the vast majority of what I drink is black, I shall answer for black.
And then it depends on which region it’s from. If it’s one of my favourite types then I have some pretty picky ideals. For Keemun, I want a good body of grainyness and that sweet spot between pseudo-smoky and floral. For Fujian blacks of any sort I want cocoa in spades and fruity undertones with a smidge of smoke. For Lapsang Souchong I want detectable smoke and fruity sweetness.
For Yunnan blacks I just want anything that doesn’t taste of hay…
But most of all, regardless of which tea I’m having, whether it’s black, green or oolong, is something that feels like balance between the different flavour notes. I can’t explain what that really is, but I can tell when it’s there and I can definitely tell when it’s not there.
I look for high level of yumminess and absence/low level of astringency.
Yumminess = critical. Lack of astringency = second most critical thing. Perhaps the third most critical thing is a bit of forgiveness with brewing parameters? I need teas that can be oversteeped/overleafed/brewed a bit too hot. Or at least, ones that don’t taste terrible if the water temperature is 2 degrees too high, or if they’re oversteeped by 15 seconds.
Totally a good call, Kittenna. I always tend to over-steep, either because I forget/get distracted or intentionally because I like my tea strong. I also can’t always get the temperature exactly right since I just push a button on my kettle and don’t use a thermometer. I get annoyed with teas that punish me for that. =) Basically I like it when my tea prep is an art, not a science.
I look for enjoyment, if i enjoy it then thats what i’m looking for :)
I agree with Tommy.
First and foremost, I look for drinkablilty, which ultimately leads me to my goal of enjoyment.
I enjoy most types of tea, I think that I’ve managed to get my palate to adapt to even those that I once found undesirable, such as pu-erh and lapsang souchong. I am now able to even enjoy these, after learning better ways to infuse the teas.
It’s hard for me to admit this, but I’m finally coming around to the idea that I don’t have to like every type of tea. But it still bugs me! I’ve only tasted lapsang souchong once, and it made me physically ill. It also infected my mug for like two days, for which I kind of resent it. =) Seriously, though, if you have some suggestions for preparing it, not to make it more palatable but to help my own tastebuds learn, adapt and appreciate it, I’m all ears.
I don’t know if this will help, Nik, but I think LS is very much an acquired taste — kinda like limburger cheese. I was surprised at first that the taste was very different than the smell (for me at least). I didn’t like the smokey scent at all. (Someone I know tossed a brand new tin of Twinings Russian Caravan before even tasting it, based solely on its scent.) I tried to avoid the smell, at least until it was brewed, in order to drink it. Soon I began to enjoy the scent as well; and now I love it. If I were you, I would try to separate the smell from the taste (not easy, but it can be done) — if you don’t like either, then LS is probably not for you. If you like the smell but not the taste, try brewing the tea very weakly and see if you develop a liking for it.
Nik- you could always try a flash steep with the LS if its a bit much for you, I see now that cuppa already suggested weak brew :)
Thanks, folks! cuppaT, I don’t like the fragrance or the flavour (they were the same for me: smoke, smoke and more smoke), so maybe it’s just not for me. I think that I won’t go out of my way to try more, but if I somehow end up with a sample, I’ll give it another go. I’m sure there’s as much variety in LS as there is in any other type of tea, so no reason to write it all off because I didn’t like the one I had. I appreciate your input!
Nik, if you have any LS kicking around, try marinading meat/veggies in it! It’s my all time favourite cooking tea (though i love to curl up with a cup of it to drink too). Just a thought ;)
Thanks for the suggestion! But wouldn’t that just make the veggies taste smoked? That’s definitely not for me.
I like it for hearty veggies like asparagus, or other veggies that I normally grill on the bbq in the summer (but can’t when the rain comes). I usually do 1tsp LS leaves, 1c hot water, 1/2c honey, 1/2c low sodium soy sauce, and a couple tbsp of sesame seeds for a marinade. Let it cool to room temp, then add meat/veggies to it in a sealed container/large ziploc bag, and do meat for about 24hrs and veggies for 20-40 minutes. It’s a subtle smokiness, but definitely there. It’s not for everyone, but I really enjoy it
The first time I tried Lapsang Souchong, I had a large sample sent to me by a wholesale company (This was in my early stages as a tea company) – it must have been 4 ounces. I opened it and was totally repulsed by its aroma. But, I still stuck it out and tried brewing it, and I hated it. I hated it so much that I had to throw out the whole four ounces – and that’s something I DO NOT like to do. I hate throwing out tea. But, I could not even stand to have it in my house, that’s how much I hated it. When other companies would send me their Lapsang Souchong, I wouldn’t even bother opening the package, right into the trashcan it would go. Even in my earliest months as a tea reviewer, way, way back when, I would throw out Lapsang Souchong teas and Caravan Teas because I knew I’d hate it.
Then, I tried brewing it in my gaiwan. A quick rinse of the tea using the same temperature water you’d brew with (in this case, boiling) – a 15 second rinse, dump that … this does WONDERS! Then I brew it the same way I’d brew any tea in my gaiwan. 45 seconds for the first infusion, 15 seconds each subsequent infusion.
You still get a rich flavor, but you don’t get the really HEAVY smoke essence. You will still get some smoke, but, not nearly as bad as you’d get steeping a Lapsang Souchong using other methods. And a little smoke is not bad at all, in fact, it’s kind of nice. It’s just when it’s REALLY smoky … when it smells and tastes as though someone dumped an ashtray in my teacup, that’s what I don’t like.
Milk + sweetener make LS delicious for me. Otherwise, the ones I’ve tried are just a bit much. I like smokiness, but can’t handle it terribly well straight.
Thank you for all the ideas, everyone. I think I have another smoky sample or three somewhere in my stash. I’ll give some of these suggestions a go!
Like Tommy said, I look for the enjoyment. Other then that, echoing what Angrboda said about balance. If there is more then 1 note to a tea, I prefer them to be equal in strength. Even if 1 is quieter then the other.
Yes to what LiberTeas said as well about drinkability. If I have to force myself to finish the cup……I’m not enjoying it.
A lot of things depending on how smug I’m feeling. Obviously a warm smell. Also a lush, inviting color. The dried leaves tell a story and cannot be forgotten. A weird thing happens when everything is just so- a smell to a taste will leave your mind wondering through a wonderful world of ecstasy and bliss. If my childish desires and imagination reemerge from my subconscious and I feel as though my life has new meaning….. it’s probably a pretty decent tea.
Hmmm, well lately I’ve been on a kick of looking for complex teas, teas that have some uniqueness to them and teas that widen your eyes when you smell the dried leaf because the smell is so amazing that you can’t help but smile.
If it evokes a particular emotion when I smell it, I usually find that I really enjoy it. I have teas that make me feel happy, relaxed, safe, even teas that smell like a comforting hug. I have other teas that make me feel awake, excited, “ready to go”.
I tend to be drawn to unique teas. Exotic flavours/blends, tea sourced from parts of the world I’m unfamiliar with (I found a lovely Vietnamese oolong that I bought simply because I’d never tasted a Vietnamese tea before, and I love it!). The only things I tend to avoid are licorice/fennel flavoured/blended tea. If I can’t smell the licorice, it’s okay, but the smell/taste is really offputting. Other than that, I’ll try anything once, and have yet to find anything I really can’t stand besides a really unexpectedly licoricey blend.
Something to keep me warm and comforted, hopefully with a good taste. Some teas I drink just to get through or to expand my horizons, but that majority of tea I drink for me. I get pleasure from it as I do from eating homemade cooking or reading a good book – it’s a hobby I indulge myself in.