Monday, 19 April 2010

Developing one's palate

As I expected, the more varieties of tea I drink the more my palate is changing. Several months ago, I liked green tea but the more pungent the better. And black tea had to be strong and dark. Slowly, as I drank specific Ceylons and read about what to look for, or I should say taste for, I was able to choose ones that were more to my liking.

Any Assam was acceptable before, whereas now I'm not able to happily drink some of the non-descript ones that used to please me. The biggest change has been my complete about face on Darjeeling. When I first started, I suggested drinking black tea with milk if you weren't used to tea yet. There are still some Assams and Ceylons that taste ok without milk, but really good with a splash or two.

I'm sure Darjeeling would be ok with a bit of milk, but the delicate taste of the ones I like most seem to be covered up as soon as you add milk. Maybe you've always drunk tea with a bit of milk. My suggestion would be to try the first sip of whatever you drink without milk.

And any time you're trying some new tea, do the same thing. Even if you resolve to add milk immediately after that sip, breathe in deeply as you slurp one big sip of unadulterated black tea. My experience is that you'll slowly start to appreciate the taste of your favorites. And what's been more shocking to me is that some teas, which used to be perfectly acceptable, have become almost undrinkable.

There's a blend that Claus Kröger sells called Ceylon Blackbird that I drank so happily in early days. Today it need a lot of milk.


  1. Everything in this post; spot on.
    I think especially with darjeelings, you come to find the quality in them, and when you taste a bad one, you know it immediately.

    Im not big on black teas in general, but I do know wrong from right when it comes to what they should taste like! Haha.
    Wonderful post.

  2. I've made it my rule now not to add anything whatsoever to my tea.

    Back before I really was into tea, I'd always have green tea with honey. My palate just didn't recognize the goodness of the green tea, and I myself wasn't seeking the taste. It was really just about drinking something warm.

    Now, I can't imagine myself adding honey to my tea. I want to discover tea now, and therefore I want to drink tea unadulterated so that I can get all the flavours and nuances that they contain.

    I never was one for adding milk to tea anyways. It just seems weird to me. Besides, I noted that some teas have a milky sensation or aftertaste, and therefore do not require any milk.

    Also, I was never partial to black tea, but now, after actually trying a loose leaf black tea (and subsequently enjoying it), I want to try some more.

    The palate changes and becomes anew with every sip.

    Great post. ^_^

  3. While I think there's a pretty clear distinction (in most cases) between the cheap, low-grade teas, and the better ones, I think it's very subjective what constitutes a "good" tea. I think this becomes more true as you get into the better grades of tea, single-estate teas, flushes, and limited-production batches.

    Some teas that I have seen others review favorably, I simply don't like, and vice-versa for ones that I love but have seen others not enjoy.

    For example, I dislike savory qualities in tea, and I find gyokuro and some Darjeelings can have fairly prominent savory qualities, and some people love this. I also like bitterness a lot, but many others do not. When it comes to particular aromas, it's even more complex and subjective.

    I love how the palate changes and develops over time...and I love how each person's develops in their own way. That's what makes the world of tea (and food / drink in general) so fascinating.

  4. Exactly Alex. That was exactly what I was getting at.

    Asiatic, your positive energy is really appreciated and Sir Wil, I'm astounded at how my black tea tastes are developing. Sounds like you're in the same boat.