Tea cupping can teach us much about the different varieties and qualities of tea


Tea cupping or tea tasting, an important step in continuing our tea education.

tea plant

Do you associate the pleasure of sipping a fresh cup of tea to curling up with a good book? Maybe you use the body-warming brew to hurl you into another realm of self-exploration.

Whatever your situation is, the art of tea cupping may prove quite a positive experience.

Tea leaves undergo various processes of oxidation, heating and drying. After this process some varieties have additional flowers, spices, herbs, or fruits added to offer different presentation and aromas.

As you further explore the all-encompassing nature of tea, there are four basic types to consider.

What is Cupping?

Tea cupping is an experience that transports a taster into varying levels of discovery. A variety of teas are compared at the same time.

The practice is meant to determine quality, color and flavor. For some, the process encourages one to select quality over price, while others enter the journey in an effort to try to find a tea that speaks to the inner workings of their senses. When gaining a better understanding, an individual may learn how to choose varieties according to assorted frames of mind, emotions, and individual enjoyment.

Professionals approach tea cupping with consistency, using similar techniques hold great importance. Once you develop your own way of cupping tea, it is best to continue cupping in the same manner. This will help you to acquire an accurate response each time.

Not everyone will cup tea in the same manner. This is part of the beauty of the process. It is a personal journey. Unique in every way, down to tea brands, decorative tea cups and the glint in the silverware stirring the brews.

Getting Started

Tea tasting requires a few pieces of equipment. Two of these are a tasting bowl and brewing cup with lid. These are things I acquired at my first tea tasting at the Tea Association of America class room.

A scale is necessary for the precise measurement of tea for each cup. Tea cupping follows weight, not volume. A suggested amount of leaves is 3 grams.

Tasting spoons resembling a deeper soup spoon are sometimes used.

A timer properly gauges how long tea has steeped (usually between 3 and 5 minutes).

To cut costs and keep the process simple, we can use small teapots, cups, spoons and a clock or kitchen timer.

After equipment setup, tea selection is next. While it is common to choose an extensive assortment to sample, some of the best results come when beginning with a few cups. Then gradually increasing the amount over time.

As your palate starts to warm up to the process, you may increase cups in the middle of one journey. With tea cupping there is a basic method to the madness. Typically, teas are arranged by increasing intensity. Cups should display first white varieties, followed by green, oolong and then black.

How to Taste Tea

Tea is not only affected by its variety, oxidation time and type, but also by steeping and origin. A tea grown in India will not taste the same as one originating from China.

The location, climate, soil and manner in which it was processed also affect the taste and other characteristics.

Taste is not the only sense involved in the process of tea cupping. Traditional tea tasting also engages the eyes. The appearance of the leaf is quite revealing. Are the leaves twisted, rolled or possess a natural flatness? What is the color? Are the tea leaves broken or whole? The taste and body of the tea is influenced by these things.

Before steeping, take a deep whiff of the leaves. What do you smell - sweetness, smokiness or gassiness? Afterwards, are you bursting at the seams to taste the blend? Can you pinpoint citrus oils, indicate flowery aromas or identify fruity overtones?

All of these factors should be considered as a taster takes in the sights, steps into the aroma of a fresh brew, inhales, and then tastes. The focus should be on the initial taste, the taste, and the aftertaste. Some take sips and hold the tea in their mouths. A swirl or gargle may also follow.

The most thorough tasters sometimes jot down their findings in a journal that describes specific details for each tea. This is a fun process, why not keep a record of your explorations?

Tea Tasting Terminology

As you increase your skill regarding tea cupping, you may soon familiarize yourself with tea taster terminology. The flavors of tea are brassy (bitter), brisk (lively), harsh (bitter and raw), pungent (astringent but not bitter) or smooth. Leaves are often described as wiry, irregular, ragged, flaky, bold, choppy or even. Also, don't be afraid to experiment in the world of tea.

One person's intolerance is another person's treasure. Perhaps, green tea has always danced upon your taste buds with a grassy afterglow that doesn't quite suit your preferences. It never hurts to give your least appealing tea variety a second chance. Arm yourself with patience and an open mind. Allow your taste buds the adventure of many different varieties of tea.

The Meaning of Tea Cupping

Each and every personal journey into the depth of a soul-searching cup of tea is different. Even tasting the same exact spread of teas for a second time produces diversity. This is because the experience is an endeavor that involves many different factors that influence the outcome of a tasting session.

The time of day, current mood, lighting, distractions, temperature, and surrounding odors are just some of the things that vary the outcome.

Overall there is no definite right or wrong way to approach tea cupping. The goal is to explore tea in a more profound manner. The possibilities are endless.




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