It is the taster who describes and values tea. His description of the liquor
is based on taste. In its widest sense, which includes aroma, taste is a very
complex property that has so far not been assessed chemically. A taster may deal
with several hundred tea samples in a day. In making his evaluation, he brings
his knowledge and experience of the outturn of a particular estate to bear upon
Tea tasting has its own distinct routines. The taster takes the tea into his
mouth with a loud sucking noise. He swirls the liquor round his tongue and gums,
drawing the aroma back into his mouth and up into the olfactory nerves. The
taster, thereby, tastes feels and smells the liquid.
While it is mainly the tongue that experiences taste, other surfaces of the
mouth also play a role here. There are four kinds of tastes - salt, sour,
sweet and bitter. Sweetness is tasted at the tip of the tongue, and bitterness
at the back. Saltines too are tasted at the tip, but also at the sides of the
front of the tongue. Sourness is experienced at the back edges. A stringency or
pungency is a sensation, not a taste, that is felt on the gums and part of the
cheek. When the liquor is swirled round the mouth, the thickness, body or
viscosity is felt and judged.
Tea tasting is a precise skill and one that can be performed
only with a good natural palate and active olfactory nerve. Apart from tasting
and describing tea, the ability to value a tea calls for long experience and
The taster's infusion is made of 6 grams of tea. The tea is
placed in a mug fitted with a lid. Boiling water is poured onto the leaves, the
lid is replaced and the infusion is allowed to stand for five minutes. The tea
is then decanted into a handle-less cup of somewhat bigger capacity than the
mug. The infused leaf is shaken from the mug on to the inverted lid, which is
placed on top of the mug.
For tasters, "infused" leaf refers to the wet leaf
left over after the liquor is drained out; "infusion" refers to the
A number of mugs are set up at a time. When the taster steps up
to a table with a number of such mugs, set behind each will be set a sample of
the dry tea leaf too.
||Tea manufactured during autumn is known as autumnal tea. The leaf obtained
after final firing in that period is reddish in colour, but with varying
degrees of flavour and aroma, for which customer prefers it.
||This is an undesirable characteristic developed due to high
temperatures during drying.
||This is a desirable characteristic of
tea, which indicates the colour of the particles. The particles are black
as opposed to brown, red or green. Black tea can be produced only through
fine plucking and careful manufacture.
||Bloom indicates the outward look of the particles. This
characteristic if found when a varnish-like film develops on individual
particles during manufacture. This can easily be lost through faulty
sorting and breaking.
||When leaf particles are larger than
standard size, they are called bold.
||Bright refers to a bright appearance o both liquor and
infused leaf, as opposed to a dull look. Brightness indicates that the
manufacture is free from bacterial action and has been carried out
||A live character of liquor that is not
flat or soft.
||This describes the colour of dry leaf. Normally,
under-withered leaf gives brown tea. But second flush tea that is brownish
in colour is valuable.
||Like all things, tea subjected to extreme
high temperatures gets burnt. Obviously, an undesirable characteristic.
||A undesirable resinous smell in both dry leaf and liquor
that develops from inferior quality packing chests.
||A clean and uniform classified tea should
be free from stalk and fibre.
||when the liquor is harsh, it is classified as a coarse tea.
This feature is not desirable and is probably developed through coarse
||This hot water soluble combination of
condensation compounds and caffeine separates out as a 'cream' on cooling.
A bright cream indicates good quality tea whereas dull or muddy cream is
indicative inferior liquor.
||The term 'dull' is used to describe infused leaf, liquor
and the appearance of made tea. When the colour of the infused liquor or
the made tea is dull, it is considered to be poor tea. dullness is infused
leaf and liquor develops from over-fermentation or bacterial infection.
Dullness in made tea is mainly due to faulty sorting procedures.
||The term 'even' describe the condition of
the infused leaf. It is usually combined with 'bright' or 'coppery' as
||It denotes the presence of fibre in some grades,
particularly in fanning and dusts. This is due to coarse plucking or
application of heavy pressure during rolling.
||In orthodox manufacture, tea that is not
properly twisted is termed 'flakey'. Flakiness develops from insufficient
withering or rolling.
||One of the most desirable characteristics of liquor,
largely indicated by a pleasing aroma of the made tea.
||This is descriptive of a defective taste
in liquor developed through excessive fermentation and subsequent
||This a defective colour in infused leaf. This defect may be
caused by coarse plucking, insufficient fermentation, as also poor and
inadequate rolling and insufficient withering.
||Grey coloured leaf is highly undesirable.
Grayness develops due to faulty sorting and breaking procedures.
||This describes liquor from tea which has had prolonged
exposure to fire.
||When the whole grade is not even in size,
the batch is called irregular. It indicates improper sorting.
||A grade that consists of larger leaves is called leafy.
||This describes liquor that is lacking in
depth of colour, but may have desirable flavour.
||This describes infused leaf with varying colour, which is
indicative of insufficient rolling and withering, coarse plucking, etc.
||This refers to poor quality tea produced
during the monsoons. Plain tea is a result of soft withering, excessive
heating, or excessive moisture in the leaf during withering.
||A desirable characteristic of the liquor. It manifests as
extreme briskness and has an astringent effect on the palate.
||The most desirable characteristic of tea
liquor, indicating correct and efficient manufacture.
||This describes liquor produced from insufficiently
||This is a defect of tea liquor caused by
a faulty direct heater or leakage in the pipes of an indirect heater.
||This describes liquor lacking in briskness and brightness.
This is caused by bacterial action and over-fermentation.
||This denotes tea with a high
concentration of stalks.
||This is a defect that develops during faulty frying
procedures. When the exhaust temperature is kept low and fermentation
exceeds the required period, the leaf gets 'stewed'.
||A desirable characteristic of Assam tea
denoting adequate 'substance' in the liquor.
||Tea that contains large number of tips is termed tippy.
||This indicates the style of the leaf
created during rolling.
||This describes the well-twisted, thin orange pekoe grade.
||This describes liquor from tea
manufactured late in the autumn.
Source: Tea Technology, Gokul C. Sarma, P. Eng.