A Thought On Tasting Tea: Adjectives

For beginners, there is nothing wrong with using adjectives like earthy, smoky, mineral, creamy, oceanic, or vegetal. These adjectives paint with a broad brush and are suitable for one developing their pallet. 

For those who have experience with tea, and are just stuck in the comfort of familiar adjectives, I challenge you to consider thinking outside of your comfort zone.

In respect to painting, consider how many blues there are in existence. The open sky is not painted with a single "sky blue," and in many cases, contrasting colors are seen and used.

Focusing back on tea, let us consider the frequently used, if not overused, tasting adjective "vegetal." It is easy to say that a drink derived from the leaf of a Camellia sinensis plant tastes vegetal.

Let's give your descriptors an upgrade. One might find that by broadening one's descriptive vocabulary, their pallet becomes reflexively broadened and refined.

Use this as a guide to help you expand your descriptors and refine your pallet:

Do you recognize the smell or taste of a garden vegetable? If so, could you use any of these vegetables as a descriptor?

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Lettuce

Does the smell or taste remind you of walking by a freshly cut lawn or bailed hay?

  • Fresh Cut Grass
  • Dry Hay

Do you recognize a more "earthy" vegetal taste or smell? does it remind you of a root vegetable?

  • Carrot
  • Radish
  • Yam
  • Daikon

Does it smell/taste like a stem vegetable?

  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Kohlrabi
  • Rhubarb

Does it smell/taste like a brassica?

  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

Want to take it one step deeper?

  • Does it smell/taste like a cooked or raw vegetable?
  • Smell your tea leaves before steeping. Does the smell of the dry leaves differ from the smell of the wet leaves?
  • Does the smell of the liquor, brewed tea, resemble the smell of the leaves?
  • What do the leaves taste like after steeping? That's right! Give them a taste. I would even encourage you to make a nice cold salad out of the steeped whole green tea leaves. It pairs excellently with a spritz of citrus juice and sesame. 

Now, consider the above guide to broadening the vegetal descriptor. The same technique may be used with other descriptors. Smoky. Is it a maple smoke, or a toasted BBQ smoke? Fruity. Is it a citrus fruit, a warm peachy sweetness? Earthy. Is it woody or does it have a warm fresh compost bouquet?

Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

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