Though tea and wine have substantial differences as beverages, there are striking similarities between the tasting processes used to evaluate their flavor profiles. In sharpening my own tea tasting process, I found that many of the terms and techniques between the two overlap, which was surprising at first because they are made in completely different ways from different sources and processes. However, the more I compared tea and wine from a sensory standpoint, the more I felt that the tasting process should be the same, because both types of beverages have various levels of quality based on where they were cultivated, amongst other factors, and an extensive following of connoisseurs who sample them.
The first step in tea and wine tasting is to examine the visual aspects of the beverage. For tea, you want to start by looking at the unprepared leaves themselves, determine if they appear to be fresh or old, and note the quality before brewing. Then, you form visual impressions of the brewed cup of tea, especially focusing on the clarity, color, and presence of sediment. This visual evaluation is almost the exact same for wine tasting, as you look for the clarity, color, and sediment in the glass before drinking to form impressions of the overall quality. In both instances, having a white background for the liquid to be compared against is helpful, and white interior tea cups are most often used in the tasting process; in contrast, since wine is sampled from an appropriate glass, a paper towel is often held up to the glass for easy comparison.
As for the aroma, tasters of both beverages always make sure to mention the scent profile they gather, as scent and taste work hand in hand. Tea connoisseurs sometimes put their nose directly in the unprepared tea leaves to evaluate the aroma, and they also consider the fragrance produced by the prepared brew. Likewise, wine tasters sample the aroma of their subjects by putting their nose at the top of the glass and make note of the various nuances they sense from the smell alone.
Lastly, the actual tasting process for both tea and wine considers all aspects of the beverage’s evolution when being consumed. The process starts with drinking either tea or wine in a way that makes sure the whole tongue is covered by the liquid, because the tongue has varying taste buds that sense different aspects of flavor. Therefore to get the best impression, the liquid must be moved through the whole mouth. Some connoisseurs of both tea and wine decide to spit out their sample once they have evaluated the flavor of the beverage, though I think this step is probably most important for wine tasting, as tea is not likely to leave you intoxicated after a few samples. The final step in examining the overall taste of both tea and wine is to note the finish of the beverage and how the taste evolves after being consumed.
The overall experience from doing a tea or wine tasting definitely has its differences, but the process itself is not vastly contrasted between the two. Quality is the main factor in both realms, and the visual impression, aroma, and evolution of taste are all factors that must be considered to effectively review tea and wine. Though there are many specifics of tea tasting left to be mentioned, understanding the general points of the process can help in your own evaluation of different tea or wine varieties.
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