Everyone loves a good cup of tea. But are you enjoying each cup to its full potential? We spoke with our resident tea expert, Ravi Pillai, to find out how he gets the most out of each and every sip.
Turn over a new leaf
From steeping to sipping, tea is a sensory adventure that starts with the dry leaf. Next time you prepare a cup of tea, take a moment to inspect and touch the loose leaf. The beauty of the leaf is captivating, while the feel of it can tell you a lot about the quality of the tea.
Before preparing a pot, Ravi always examines the dry leaf for its appearance, size, ingredients and the general feel to ensure quality. “Always look at the leaf. Touch it. Smell it. Inspect it. And make it a sensory experience.”
Heat things up
Once you’ve studied the leaf, it’s time to get steeping. Before infusing, heat your teapot or mug with warm water. If either is cold, the temperature of the infusion will drop, which changes the tea’s character and the aromatic profile. By warming the vessel before pouring your tea, you prevent this from happening. According to Ravi: “The warmth of the vessel starts the taste of the cup. If you put it in a cold mug, you risk changing the attitude of your brew.”
That said, it’s important to note that as tea cools down, its flavour strengthens. That’s because even after you remove your infuser, the tea is still “steeping” (i.e. oxidation is taking place). If you want to avoid this effect, try to finish your cup before it reaches room temperature.
Hold your liquor
Now that your tea has steeped, take a moment to examine the liquor colour and aroma. Eye it for brightness and clarity, and try to pick up on subtle scents. The aroma should give you an early indicator of the taste, so really hone in on it. Says Ravi, “when examining the liquor, I don’t want to be distracted. My mind is entirely on this tea.”
Suck it up
When testing teas, it’s not uncommon to slurp them up. Try this technique:
- Steep a cup of tea.
- Grab a shallow soup spoon, and fill it with the steeped liquor.
- Slurp it up quickly, letting the liquor roll across your palate and around your tongue.
Ravi explains: “I suck it in as hard as possible, so that the mist of the slurping goes across to palate and across the sensory glands. Then, I swish the liquor around my tongue. The tongue has five sensory glands – sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. Slurping allows you to evaluate all characteristics of the tea.”
Give it a try! You’ll notice some nuanced flavours that you may have otherwise missed.
You must sip it
While it’s fun to do, slurping obviously isn’t the most efficient way to drink your tea. Imagine slurping a pot of tea or more… it would take forever! That’s why Ravi recommends sipping. “When I’m at home, I make a pot and drink small cups all day.”
We know, everyone sips their tea. But there’s more to it than you might think; remember, tea is a sensory experience. So then what’s the proper way? Just follow the steps listed above. First, warm the cup. Next, let the scent of the cup pull you in. “Follow the aroma as it goes through the nostrils, past the cilia, and across your neural pathways.” Then, take a slow sip and let it embrace your senses. And now you’re sipping tea like a pro.