As I mentioned in my blog post, Why Tea, last spring I set off to learn as much as I could about tea. I started on the Internet reading articles about tea, subscribing to tea blogs, studying the health benefits, and anything else related to tea. Somewhere during my research I read about tea classes and a certification program offered by the Specialty Tea Institute which is affiliated with the Tea Association of the USA. In a stroke of good fortune they offered a Level 1 and 2 Tea class in Seattle in mid-April. I have since learned that they only offer these classes about every three months in locations all over the country.
Another tea loving friend took the classes with me which made it much more enjoyable. However, it was not the “easy” class I thought it would be. My first clue was when I received two 40-page manuals to study before the class. My second clue was when I started reading them and found myself trying to recollect plant biology and chemistry concepts from high school plus Asian history and geography from my Asian Studies major in college. In Level 1 we learned about the processing and manufacturing of all types of tea (black, green white, oolong and pu-erh). Level 2 covered more production methods, blending, flavoring, scenting and an introduction to the sensory evaluation of teas.
We also learned how to cup teas like the professionals do – examine the dry leaves, smell and examine the infused leaves, study the tea liquor color, and finally take a slurp of the tea from a tea tasting spoon (a loud slurp so that the tea covers the inside of your mouth which helps to taste the tea). And then came the hardest part for me – describing the aroma and flavor. We used terms like baked fruit, wet hay, seaweed, burnt sugar, grassy, grilled asparagus, ripe melon, and so on. Keep in mind that we were tasting “pure, true tea”, not flavored teas or teas blended with botanicals. I had no idea that teas had such a range of aromas and flavors. After the two days of classes I was even more intrigued by tea and knew that I wanted to continue my research and study of tea.
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