If you wish to enhance the experience of drinking tea, the first thing to do, before even wetting your lips with the fresh infusion, is to sniff the leaves before and after infusion, inhaling the subtle fragrances they contain. Next, study the color and texture of the liquid, then bring the bowl very close to your nose to smell the fragrances released by the liquor. You can use the “little dog” technique, involving repeated rapid sniffing. Concentration is important at this moment, as the first impressions derived from the smells are often very revealing.
Now that you have inhaled the aromas of both the leaves and the liquor. you are ready to take your first sip. Once you are ready to drink, take a small sip and then expel air through your nostrils to facilitate retro-olfactory perception. Pay special attention to the sensations the liquid creates throughout your mouth. Of the five essential tastes, salty is rarely found in tea. Bitterness, however, is present in varying degrees in almost all teas because of the tannins and the caffeine, which give structure to the liquid. But that is not a bad thing! For a Western palate, bitterness is perhaps an acquired taste, but it is not a defect as such. Study how the bitterness is balanced with other aromas in the tea. Link the flavor to others it reminds you of. Try to go beyond your first impression. Allow your sensations to guide you while maintaining your concentration so as not to lose these precious first impressions. Finally, try to define the sensations so as to better understand and remember them.
All the senses are involved in tasting. It is not just about the nose and the tongue. Hearing allows us to hear the “song of the water” and know that it is ready for infusion. Vision tells us how the tea looks. So the environment, the music, the lighting, the other people present our own mood are all elements to take into account if you are to succeed in truly tasting. In the wrong conditions, even tasting a grand cru can be an unpleasant experience.