The true taste of tea

My regular tea menu includes basically three kinds of teas these days.  Aged oolongs are the ones I drink the most often, followed by youngish puerh (youngish means nothing from the past two years, generally speaking).  Then I throw in some occasional aged puerh of one type or another.  I drink almost nothing else these days, despite having large amounts of yancha and some less aged oolong sitting around.  A friend recently asked to be served green tea, and I must say I don’t really have any fresh green tea to speak of at all, since I never finish them and it ends up being a waste of money.  I used to drink almost only green tea, but those were the days.

I can say though, that there is something universal about tea, no matter the type, that trascends the differing tastes that one gets from them.  I think it is quite a normal progression for many tea drinkers to first be attracted to the higher aromatics from a green or a light oolong tea, then getting more interested in teas that are of a deeper, darker nature.  Of course, that’s only speaking from the point of view of those who are interested in Chinese teas; black tea drinkers, for example, may have different experiences.  Nevertheless, I find that after all these years of drinking tea, that they all share a common “tea” taste.  Sometimes this “tea taste” is well hidden behind the aromatics, but always discernable.  I often find that the best way to taste them is when the tea gets cold, or at least cooled.  Then, drinking it in larger sips, you can taste that universal “tea” taste that you will find no matter what kind of tea it is, and no matter how old it is.  It has a distinctive feeling on the tongue, and a certain amount of aftertaste.  It tastes leafy, but not entirely so, and is not necessarily bitter or anything like that.  Very often, it is only apparent after a number of infusions — after all the easily soluable compounds are gone, I suppose.

I sometimes wonder if this is what separates good from bad tea, and that after long exposure to teas, we learn how to distinguish the good from the bad with these “deeper” taste.  After all, the fleeting, first-infusion tastes are easily discernable, but also very momentary.  On the other hand, some teas, generally the better ones, tend to go on, and on, and on, without giving up no matter how many infusions you put it through.  This applies to not only puerh, but also oolongs.  Greens are less tenacious, but it probably has as much to do with the fact that they are greener shoots than anything else.  Rare are the teas that are great that don’t last very long.


Comments

The true taste of tea — 4 Comments

  1. I can definitely relate to the long-lasting ability of a good aged oolong. A shop in Seattle featured a 30-year aged oolong that lasted for 20+ steepings when we sat down to taste it. Even after being steeped upwards of two dozen times, the leaves refused to open.

  2. Yesterday, while visiting my parents I decided to reinfuse my pot of first flush Darjeeling. This cup provided not so much grassy/bite from the FF, but a pretty solid “tea taste” that I enjoyed all the way down. Like you say this is easier to spot at the end of brewing a yancha, pu or whatever.

  3. I followed that progression of tastes that you describe. I started out with Sencha, and I have since gravitated towards Yancha. Now I can’t even stand the smell of Sencha, and I don’t like the greener oolongs.

    By young Puerh do you mean something like 3-7 years? I was on a really good young Puerh (2008 stuff) kick this last summer. After taking a two week break at the start of school, I’ve since lost the taste for such young Puerh. I don’t know why, but I just don’t like it anymore; I find it very offensive and unpleasant.

    I plan on checking out some aged oolongs soon, and maybe some aged Puerh. I hear so many good things about aged oolongs that I am excited to try them.

    Thanks for posting.

  4. At this point I drink nearly exclusively black Chinese teas — that is, hongcha. Once upon a time it was the light oolongs, then the more medium oolongs, and then high fired. Punctuated by puerh. And then starting a year or two ago… China blacks, from all over.

    I think it has to do with age, frankly, and needing more warming. At least that’s one perspective. Just give it time. When it’s a really blistering hot summer day, I’ll start drinking greens, and icing them.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.