In the tasting procedure, pots and cups made of the finest china, kept spotlessly clean, are used; 2.5 gm of each tea is weighed into pots and water which has just come to the boil is poured over it. The pots are then covered with a lid and the tea is infused for either 5 or 6 minutes, depending on the individual taster’s preference. The liquor is poured out into a cup and the tea is ready for tasting.
The colour and evenness of the infusion, as also its nose, are an index to the intrinsic value of the brew. This examination takes place in a well lit room away from direct sunlight, shade and shadow. Light from the north, which is steady and uniform, is ideal.
The scrutiny of the leaf and infusion over, the taster turns his attention to the liquor and takes a sip from the cup, rolls it in his mouth and spits it out. In that split second, the palate registers the taste - Flavour, briskness, strength and any faults and flaws are recorded and the taster is ready with his judgement.
Info courtesy Darjeeling Planters’ Association
An interesting twist on a perennial favourite, this green tea flavoured with bergamot oil has a delicate flavour that is not dissimilar to a Lady Grey tea. It smells divine, the brew is a light greenish-yellow, and it tastes faintly of citrus. It’s a good introduction to green tea for any new drinker, and a delight for more experienced palates.
Jasmine Silver Needle
Made from rare white tea, which has a short harvesting season and is air dried rather than fired, Jasmine Silver Needle is the queen of jasmine teas. The jasmine flowers are placed between layers of the tea and left for the scent to infuse. No flavours or perfumes are used in the making of this tea and so the scent and flavour of the tea are a gentle treat for the senses.
If Jasmine Silver Needle is the queen of teas, First-Flush Darjeeling is surely the king. First-Flush tea is harvested in mid March, following the spring rains, and so the tea that is picked in this period has a very light colour and surprisingly mild flavour for a black tea. For those who like a little more flavour in their tea, a Second-Flush Darjeeling is a good alternative.
Sencha means ‘Common tea’ but, as you’ll see from the picture, outside Japan few of us are lucky enough to regularly drink anything as fine as Japanese Sencha. It is a large-leafed green tea that is commonly mixed with flowers and fruits. It produces a pale yellow liquor and, for a green tea, the flavour has a surprising depth and body.
The smell of Lapsang Souchong has an unfortunate tendency to put people off, but if you like the smell of bonfire smoke (or are feeling adventurous) it is a strong, dark tea with an oaky flavour that is well-worth a try. It is a particular favourite of our producer, Max.
Pu Erh has a strong, not particularly attractive smell and tastes, well, the way you would expect a fermented tea that has been buried a while to taste. It commonly comes in cakes or bricks, is supposed to be incredibly good for you but is surely only for the most hardened of tea drinkers.
In Gunpowder Green each leaf is individually rolled into a pellet resembling gun shot, and it is from this that it gets its unusual name. It is also known as ‘Pearl Tea’. It has a crisp, fresh flavour and produces a clear, golden liquor.
Dragon Well has large, flat leaves and is one of the most famous teas in China. It makes a bright green liquor, has a fragrance often compared to that of an orchid, and has a slightly nutty flavour. It leaves a semi-sweet aftertaste in the mouth.
The teas from Ceylon are strong-flavoured, black teas and, if you prefer your tea with milk and sugar, Ceylon teas may well be a good option. Given the choice, pick a high-grown, single estate tea as these give the best flavour. Tea from the Lover’s Leap Estate is a popular choice among drinkers of Ceylon tea.
It may sound ridiculous but, if you are going to drink peppermint tea, make sure it contains tea! Many versions of the drink are simply an infusion of peppermint leaves and so, although caffeine-free may at times be desirable, are a far cry from the authentic peppermint teas popular across the Arab world. When it is old peppermint tea fades and loses much of its smell and flavour, so for the best cup make sure you buy a tea with a good, bright colour and strong, minty smell.