A big heated debate is currently running through the tea industry – what is a tea sommelier and how can these people compare themselves to highly skilled wine sommeliers?
As I am on the path to become a tea sommelier myself I thought it might be a good moment to add my five cents to this discussion.
In ancient times, the job of a sommelier (derived from the middle French “saumalier”) was to keep the provisions (food and drinks) of a royal house well-stocked. It also included tasting and taking sips of wine to ensure they are edible and not poisoned.
Tasting tea is primarily based on three sensory elements: how we experience the tea on our taste buds and in our mouths, how the aroma enters our nose and how we experience the tea visually with our eyes. Rinse and Repeat.
During my studies one additional element came to my mind, which we seem to take for granted: sound. Most of you will say: what kind of nonsense, you cannot hear tea, tea does not speak to us.
I would like to introduce you to the most basic ingredient of tea, often underestimated and most of the time unappreciated – Water, H2O.
It is a crucial element, 95 percent of the liquor and can have a major impact on the quality of the tea we will be drinking.
For that I would like to share an essay I prepared for one of my classes and give you a bit of background on the terminology of professional tea tasting.
I had a lot of fun with this assignment and it shook my core foundation when thinking about tea. I am currently developing a method of pairing waters with certain types of teas to achieve the best desirable outcome.
I also have some great ideas on how to present tea on a tea menu (How about: A 2014 Margrets Hope Spring Flush Darjeeling brewed in fresh Tuscan Spring Water and served in an Yixing clay bowl– Doesn’t that sound nice?)