Jerry Ma said

How do you test your tea and rate your tea?

As a tea seller, I do drink a lot of tea everyday and have to decide carefully before stocking/listing a new tea into our store or on the internet.

I have been selling tea for more than 4 years now, and still I have to say that, I’m still learning, tea is different compare to any other product, they are complex. We do came across with some customer who likes the tea and some don’t! In this topic, I would like to share the way we test our tea and would like to know how you test your tea as well, hope that I can get some information and tips from all you tea lovers as well!

When ever we get a new type of tea, what we do is:
1. Have our note and pen ready.
2. Look at the tea leaves.
3. Smell it, see what aroma it has before brewing.

Than we use the right temp and size gaiwan to brew the tea.
1. Check the aroma.
2. Flavor.
3. Tea Color.
4. After taste/drinking, bitter/sweet/sour/dry/wet etc…

Than we redo the progress and write down all the taste and aroma etc … until the tea taste is all gone, up to 7-15 brew.

And finally we look at the tea leaves and see if there is any burnt leaves, broken tea leaves etc…

How about you?

7 Replies

wow that is alot. I go with more flavour and aftertaste, maybe aroma. Color, twigs etc don’t bother me unless it impacts the taste.
Being a tea seller, I suppose you are required to be more vigilant in testing!
and I rarely make it past three steeps. I haven’t the patience!
That, and my preferences seem to be changing from month to month. That in itself is a pain…

Jerry Ma said

You are right, we have to be vigilant in testing, we often find tea that gives superb aroma and taste at the first to third brew, and suddenly the aroma and taste is gone on the 4th brew! Especially tea like Wuyi mountain Oolong Tea and black tea happens all the time!

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Tamara Fox said

I’m more of an off-the-cuff tester. I like to actually make a cup and drink it slowly and think about my day. If the tea makes an impression – good or bad – I make a note of it. I do pay attention to the look and quality of the tea leaves as I’m preparing my tea, the aroma, the way the leaves look after steeping, but I don’t make notes or anything. It’s more of a gut-reaction :)

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I do similar, but only to about 3-4 steepings and I make mine in a glass infuser-having cup… and I use online note like here at Steepster or on my journal or Twitter or whatever is handy at the moment. I try to keep them all in one place, especially now that I know about here, but sometimes I’m on my mobile when tasting.

I look at and smell the tea before brewing.

Heat my water in a water-boiler that has temperature settings, made for tea use.

Pour over the tea leaves in the infuser and let steep.

Smell the hot tea, look at its color, then taste at various levels of cooling (I find some teas taste different at different temps and have a preferred hotness/coolness for different ones and/or types).

Then, if on my laptop, I take notes here or on my blog. If I’m on my mobile, I tend to Twitter my strongest opinions on it and leave more thorough note-taking til I’m back on a real computer.

Jerry Ma said

You are right, tea do taste different at various level of temps.
I used to brew tea at 100c temp in the past, and couldn’t taste the tea right cos the heat will affect your after taste, just like raw puerh for example, 90c temp brewing will gives you a thicker feeling when drinking it!

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Generally, I don’t go into tea drinking with the idea in mind that I’m going to rate the tea.

I’ll start drinking the tea, and then steep it as many times as I feel like the tea allows. I’m usually drinking tea like this with someone else, and if it’s a really good tea that I’ll end up reviewing, we won’t be able to stop talking about the tea.

We’ll talk about what it tastes like, what it reminds us of… I feel like having a tea-drinking friend is really important to my ratings. It helps immensly to have a conversation with someone about what I’m tasting. I understand what I’m drinking much better if I put it into words, and the conversation helps me pinpoint flavors or memories I otherwise would identify.

If I really want to see what a tea tastes like, I will brew it multiple times in a gaiwan. It’s not really fair to make the teas in my yixing, because that would influence the flavor.

I smell the tea throughout, and take a look at the leaves before I start steeping, and after we’ve steeped until there’s nothing left to steep!

Often, if I’m having a really awesome tea, I will do a really long steep about steeping 25 or so. It’s exciting to see what the tea will taste like if you “accidentally forget” and leave them steeping “too” long. If it’s really stellar, the tea won’t care! If not, then you’ll get to see some of the weaknesses that would not have been apparent otherwise.

If I’m tasting teas to give as a gift to someone who isn’t super into teas, I’ll take something I think I want to give them, and then I will abuse the tea.
It’s always good to try your tea as if you didn’t really know how to make tea. (let is steep for a long time, use tap water, use over or under-boiling water, etc). That way, you get to see the extreme limits on the performance of the tea, and you’ll find out if it’s delicious and idiot-proof, or just delicious under certain circumstances.

That will also help you to give instructions to the recipient, too.

I feel like this last part is important for importers and tea shops to do. You need to know what the tea will taste like to the customer after he takes it out of your shop, so you might as well know all the worst case scenarios! If the tea consistently can’t take forgetfulness or abuse, it might not be worth bringing in if it seems too finicky for it’s taste to be duplicated. If you are still convinced it’s too yummy not to carry, then you’ll be prepared with detailed and confident brewing instructions.

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Very interesting…glad that people in the business of selling are so diligent. :) When I’m doing reviews for my site, I pretty much only go by taste, and occasionally smell. I notice my first impression of the aroma, first impression of the taste, how it tastes really hot, how it tastes as it starts to cool, and how I’m left feeling after I’m done with it. Kind of like a weird but awesome version of a first date, haha.

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