Posts Tagged ‘yellow tea. ISO standard’

Cabinet of Curiosi-Teas

Midwest Cabinetby Nicole Burriss

As part of the mission of the Midwest Tea Festival and Taste All the Teas Specialty Events, I am endeavoring to further tea education for the tea consuming public - those who buy tea to drink at home, not necessarily those who are in the industry. Those of us involved in the industry already have many avenues we can pursue to continue our lifelong tea journey. The growing awareness of tea, both as a healthy lifestyle choice and as a fascinatingly complex hobby akin to wine tasting, is exciting to witness. Anything I can do to help that awakening continue to grow so that we all benefit from more informed choices being made at the consumer level is something I feel very privileged to be able to do.

To this end, under the auspices of the Midwest Tea Festival, I have started to host workshops and gatherings of various kinds for small groups of tea lovers as well as the tea-curious. The first event was a Cabinet of Curiosi-Teas meeting. Historically, cabinets of curiosity were private collections of natural history artifacts, religious or historic relics, geologic wonders, works of art and antiquities, which came into prominence in the 16th century. Some cabinets rivaled established museums and contributed much to the study of natural history. Some were a single actual cabinet; some were entire rooms or houses filled with wonders. Particularly in England, these cabinets supported the idea of “learned entertainment” or the aligning of education with entertainment. In much the same way, I hope that my Cabinet will contribute to the local tea consuming publics’ store of tea knowledge and experience and to their entertainment.

At these Cabinet sessions we will be exploring various aspects of tea from tea and food pairings down into some of the technical bits like professional tea tasting techniques. Most importantly, in my mind, is that people will be doing in them in the company of others. Having a social side to a hobby often serves as a catalyst to pull more people into it as well as just being a good idea to have a tea tasting buddy. Open dialogue and input from others is an important part of training your palate and growing your tea knowledge. Speaking from personal experience, having a tea obsession enabler spurs you to discover ever more about this fascinating and seemingly limitless area of study.

We gathered on a Saturday morning at a local nature center meeting room. The room was suffused with morning light from the floor to vaulted ceiling windows all along the northeast wall and we could look out into the wild bounty of nature as we prepared for our tasting. I had procured three teas for this initial foray – a 2015 GABA black tea that, according to the supplier, was processed from an Anxi, Fujian May-picked organic Tie Guan Yin variety, a 2016 yellow tea called Huo Shan Huang Ya and a rolled 2016 green tea, from Anhui Province.

Starting with the lighter tea, the green, I walked the students through an introduction to professional cupping methods per the ISO guidelines (2.5 grams per 3 ounces of water at boiling for 5 minutes). We tasted the tea with loud slurps all around and discussed how the professional method is intended to intensify the myriad of flavors present in a tea but not necessarily to make a drinkable cup of tea. We discussed what we were tasting, smelling and seeing but didn’t focus on terminology or expanding our tea vocabulary just yet. Predictably, with this method, the novice tasters were overwhelmed with the bitterness of the tea and could taste little else. However, a couple of them commented on some other sensory input such as a hidden sweetness and expressed surprise that the long infusing time and high water temperature hadn’t drowned this aspect of the tea. They also commented on the fresh scent of the leaves and we studied the size of them, isolating two leaves and a bud quite easily.

From there we moved on to the yellow tea, prepared in the same manner. Most didn’t notice much difference between the green and the yellow but again, a couple of tasters pointed out a more rounded feeling from the yellow tea, not quite as thin in the mouth. Again, we pulled out some of the infused leaves and compared them visually with the green leaves. Extremely similar in size, this led to a discussion of how the teas were from the same region and varietals in other regions had different sizes of leaves.

Lastly with our ISO cupping methods we sampled the GABA black tea. The process to enhance GABA in teas isn’t a process I am very familiar with but one of the students had a more in-depth experience with GABA oolong teas and was able to add to my meager store of knowledge about this nitrogen-rich, oxygen deprived processing method.

To finish up the session we returned to the green and the GABA teas and prepared them in a manner more suited for home tastings. We discussed how each of us could use the scientific process and apply it to tasting teas in an informal setting to reach personal guidelines for preparing a perfect cup of tea each time. We talked about eliminating one variable at a time in order to determine our own optimal steeping parameters for any given tea. And of course, the final takeaway, as always, is that there are agreed upon industry standards, best practices and supplier guidelines but the best way to prepare your tea is the way in which it gives you the most pleasure.

I told the students when starting the class that I was not an expert in all aspects of tea, being a continuing student myself, and promised that if I could not answer a question with certainty I would say so. To that end, I welcomed their input and knowledge as well. One of the students had STI certification and had led tea workshops in the past and that, combined with other students’ personal experiences and areas of study made the class a truly collaborative effort. With my overall grounding in the basics of tea and tea preparation as well as a recent focus on Chinese teas and their history, we achieved my goal of having a group that assisted each other in furthering our knowledge. We also had a lot of fun doing so!

Nicole Burriss, Founder Midwest Tea Festival


07 2016