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I need to try to care more about tea


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#61 avaserfi

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 07:18 PM

I've recently started trying to learn more about tea on a recent trip I picked up a Wuyi Oolong - Heritage Aigiao and a Pu-erh - Grand Shou 1997. Along with those I picked up an inexpensive gawain and have been doing some experimentation and tastings, much like I would with coffee. I take notes, pay more attention and am enjoying the experience while learning.

I did grow up in a tea drinking family, the tea was a very different experience in terms of flavor and treatment. This has encouraged me to start learning more about teas as I never really noticed how different they are and complex they can be. That said, does anyone have a good suggestion for a few interesting 'daily drinkers' which aren't too expensive? The two I got above weren't cheap, but I was on a trip and I got a couple ounces of each as souvenirs. Also, I'm curious aside from the obvious taste what are indicators of high vs low quality tea? Any reading suggestions for someone newly interested in this world?
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#62 Will

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 07:40 PM

Also, I'm curious aside from the obvious taste what are indicators of high vs low quality tea? Any reading suggestions for someone newly interested in this world?

Sounds like you visited Red Blossom in SF?

Like with other beverages, I think connoisseurs may value different things than casual drinkers, who might value lack of bitterness or astringency, and presence of sweetness or certain kinds of tastes. Some of the things that many tea drinkers I know value (I don't advocate a really clinical way of evaluating tea -- I don't think you need to take notes and look for all of these exact characteristics; they're just things to look out for):

  • Texture or thickness - people sometimes talk about the "tea base". A tea might need time for a roast to calm down, or, in the case of pu'er and other post-fermented teas, might need time to mellow out or recover from very humid storage. But many people will say that the tea base is something you can't easily "fake". However, being able to tell when a tea is thick, whether from the texture in your mouth or from the appearance of the brewed tea, is not always easy.
  • Aftertaste - For oolongs, especially, the aftertaste is very important.
  • Aroma - Again, this is especially important with oolongs, to the point where some people use special aroma cups. While I don't personally usually do this, you can enjoy the smell in the empty tasting cup, under the gaiwan lid, as well as the smell from the brewed tea.
  • Feeling in the mouth / throat - the way the tea makes your mouth and throat feel.
  • Visual appearance of the tea - while a good tea isn't bad simply because it's cloudy, most tea should have a clear appearance when brewed. The color will obviously depend on the processing of the tea.
  • Some people are also very interested in the way drinking a tea makes them feel. This can get a little more esoteric, but I do think it's important. A good tea will often make you feel relaxed and comfortable, whereas another tea might make you feel more anxious or agitated. Call me a wacko, but I don't think it's as simple as the amount of caffeine.

As far as some external resources, two tea friends of mine have some sites which I think allude to some of the subjects above:
http://marshaln.com/
http://myteastories.com/

You can also check out http://teachat.com/ - it's a forum owned by a tea vendor, but they take a pretty hands-off approach, and many serious tea folks do hang out there, and you should be able to get some good tea / vendor recommendations.

Also, make sure to use good water. Water is "the mother of tea", and some teas may work better with one water than another. Mountain spring water with some mineral content, but not too much, is what most tea lovers I know prefer. Filtered tap water may also work well, depending on where you live and what type of filtration system (reverse-osmosis will take basically everything out, so it's not ideal). And pre-heat your brewing and drinking vessels.

There are some good "daily drinkers" out there, if you just want something that tastes pretty good and isn't overly astringent or bitter. But, if you think about it, even higher priced teas are a pretty good value - depending on your brewing style you can make quite a bit of tea with a fairly small amount of tea leaf.

Edited by Will, 25 August 2011 - 07:41 PM.


#63 Richard Kilgore

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Posted 25 August 2011 - 08:05 PM

One of the many wonderful things about tea is that you can enjoy it with a pretty basic, straightforward approach and at an increasingly subtle and complex level if you wish. Will offers some helpful ideas above. There is also a great deal of information here in the eG Coffee & Tea Forum. There are topics on all the issues that Will mentions and many more, including those on all the major teas and tea growing regions of the world. Just scroll down the topics and explore whatever strikes your fancy.

You may also find some books helpful and my usual suggestion for someone wanting to understand more about teas of all sorts is "The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide"by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss.

#64 avaserfi

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 09:34 AM

Also, I'm curious aside from the obvious taste what are indicators of high vs low quality tea? Any reading suggestions for someone newly interested in this world?

Sounds like you visited Red Blossom in SF?

Like with other beverages, I think connoisseurs may value different things than casual drinkers, who might value lack of bitterness or astringency, and presence of sweetness or certain kinds of tastes. Some of the things that many tea drinkers I know value (I don't advocate a really clinical way of evaluating tea -- I don't think you need to take notes and look for all of these exact characteristics; they're just things to look out for):

  • Texture or thickness - people sometimes talk about the "tea base". A tea might need time for a roast to calm down, or, in the case of pu'er and other post-fermented teas, might need time to mellow out or recover from very humid storage. But many people will say that the tea base is something you can't easily "fake". However, being able to tell when a tea is thick, whether from the texture in your mouth or from the appearance of the brewed tea, is not always easy.
  • Aftertaste - For oolongs, especially, the aftertaste is very important.
  • Aroma - Again, this is especially important with oolongs, to the point where some people use special aroma cups. While I don't personally usually do this, you can enjoy the smell in the empty tasting cup, under the gaiwan lid, as well as the smell from the brewed tea.
  • Feeling in the mouth / throat - the way the tea makes your mouth and throat feel.
  • Visual appearance of the tea - while a good tea isn't bad simply because it's cloudy, most tea should have a clear appearance when brewed. The color will obviously depend on the processing of the tea.
  • Some people are also very interested in the way drinking a tea makes them feel. This can get a little more esoteric, but I do think it's important. A good tea will often make you feel relaxed and comfortable, whereas another tea might make you feel more anxious or agitated. Call me a wacko, but I don't think it's as simple as the amount of caffeine.

As far as some external resources, two tea friends of mine have some sites which I think allude to some of the subjects above:
http://marshaln.com/
http://myteastories.com/

You can also check out http://teachat.com/ - it's a forum owned by a tea vendor, but they take a pretty hands-off approach, and many serious tea folks do hang out there, and you should be able to get some good tea / vendor recommendations.

Also, make sure to use good water. Water is "the mother of tea", and some teas may work better with one water than another. Mountain spring water with some mineral content, but not too much, is what most tea lovers I know prefer. Filtered tap water may also work well, depending on where you live and what type of filtration system (reverse-osmosis will take basically everything out, so it's not ideal). And pre-heat your brewing and drinking vessels.

There are some good "daily drinkers" out there, if you just want something that tastes pretty good and isn't overly astringent or bitter. But, if you think about it, even higher priced teas are a pretty good value - depending on your brewing style you can make quite a bit of tea with a fairly small amount of tea leaf.


It was Red Blossom. I don't always take notes, but I have noticed I tend to learn more about tea (or other food/beverage) styles and brewing habits/results by taking notes. If I did it constantly the practice would get old, but occasionally I use it to learn about the food or beverage I have. Also, it can be interesting to use as a tool to track changes in my palette or the food/beverage being consumed.


One of the many wonderful things about tea is that you can enjoy it with a pretty basic, straightforward approach and at an increasingly subtle and complex level if you wish. Will offers some helpful ideas above. There is also a great deal of information here in the eG Coffee & Tea Forum. There are topics on all the issues that Will mentions and many more, including those on all the major teas and tea growing regions of the world. Just scroll down the topics and explore whatever strikes your fancy.

You may also find some books helpful and my usual suggestion for someone wanting to understand more about teas of all sorts is "The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide"by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss.


Thanks for the info. I have some reading to do.
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#65 Will

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 10:33 AM

I don't always take notes, but I have noticed I tend to learn more about tea (or other food/beverage) styles and brewing habits/results by taking notes. If I did it constantly the practice would get old, but occasionally I use it to learn about the food or beverage I have. Also, it can be interesting to use as a tool to track changes in my palette or the food/beverage being consumed.


I do often take notes when I'm drinking alone, especially when I'm trying unfamiliar teas. It can distract from the experience, but I do find them really helpful to refer back to later on.

#66 Wholemeal Crank

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Posted 26 August 2011 - 01:12 PM

One resource I find handy for keeping track of my tea notes is steepster.com. I don't use most features of the site much, but do keep my tasting notes there in one place. I copy/paste them in bulk to my own web site from time to time, but find their format handy for keeping up.

#67 Hassouni

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 10:53 AM

What can I do to claw my way toward tea respectability?


I have very little to add at this point, but by the far the biggest tip I can give for black tea is use boiling water. Really, truly boiling, like the kettle whistles and rages, bring your cup or teapot over to the kettle and pour while it's still on the heat. I have yet to find a commercial establishment in the US do this.

#68 Yajna Patni

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Posted 20 October 2011 - 11:59 AM

I am with hassount. This is my #1tip to good black tea.