Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tea Cupping Part II: Country of Origin

A nice set of oolong teas, ready for tasting
(courtesy the group to my right during our class)

A few days ago, I wrote about the International Standard of tea tasting.  Now let's break those rules.  ;-)  In the Advanced Tea Tasting class at the NW Tea Fest, we took a look at country-of-origin methods of tasting and grading tea. 
Oolong teas, from light to dark

The International Standard is useful for doing business across country (even continental) lines.  At the same time, within the tea-growing regions, tea farmers and business people use local methods of tasting teas.  These local methods take into account the unique properties of the tea from that region. 

For the oolong tea cupping, the procedure was very simple.  We used what Suzette called "Farmer's Style."  The dry leaf, 7 grams, went into the open bowl and we filled it to the top with boiling water.  We used a porcelain spoon for tasting.  (Porcelain doesn't interfere with the taste or aroma.)  Here's a good tip I learned:  When breathing in the aroma, breathe in with both your nose and mouth.  Then turn your head away from the tea to exhale, out of politeness for the others.  We started tasting at about 5 minutes and kept tasting further along.

We also did a second cupping using the full tea cupping set (Internatioal Standard) and performed what we called "Patience Testing."  That's to test the multiple infusions and see how long the tea would continue giving. 

Now onto Japanese greens...

Japanese Sencha
For the Japanese sencha, we used 4 grams of tea in a mesh filter in the open cup and poured hot water to the top.  At about 1 minute, we lifted the screen to enjoy the aroma, then put it back.  At 1.5 minute, we removed the screen.

See the heart?

Cloudiness in the Japanese green teas is desired.  The particulate is added back during the processing.  We only did one steeping here.  The Japanese senchas are meant to be consumed promptly after drinking.  They don't sit well, and there's no expectation of multiple infusions, like with the oolongs.

Tea is so fascinating to me!  I feel like I've stumbled into the best-kept secret ever.  I've found a fascinating topic that will give me a lifetime full of pursuits!


La Tea Dah said...

Very interesting --- I'm loving these posts.

Marilyn said...

Definitely a life time of learning. I immediately noticed the heart in the green tea. Thanks for the tip about sniffing and turning the exhale. I hadn't thought of that, but a good thought to remember.

herbert said...

Huh, maybe it's just an uneducated palatte, but while I've noticed sencha loses flavor during the repeated steepings, I've always considered it still quite drinkably tasty.

Or maybe, it's just me being cheap and not wanting to go so quite so much tea in a day.

Steph said...

Herbert - I too, steep it at least twice. I think that it's good for another round. Pushing it beyond maybe 3 rounds is where I think it starts to weaken quickly...and it generally doesn't hold up to 7 or 8, like an oolong could.

Also, the part about drinking it quickly has to do with not letting it sit in the water and continue to brew, b/c of the particulate in there.

My first rule of tea: If you like it, drink it!

Angela McRae said...

And what a great student you are! Happy I get to share (vicariously) in your pursuit of tea wisdom ...