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Tea cupping, unlike tea tasting, is a sensory exercise that allows us to make discoveries about a particular tea. Through cupping we evaluate the many qualities of a tea including its aroma, flavor, body, color, clarity of liquor and so on. In a way, cupping is a more objective exercise as compared to tea tasting.
Tea cupping documents the sensory aspects of tea across three stages:
Dry Leaves: Appearance and Aroma
Wet Leaves: Appearance and Aroma
Tea liquor/Infusion: Appearance, Aroma and Taste
Steps in tea cupping
1.Start by identifying the type of tea being tasted: Black Tea , Green Tea , Wuyi Rock Tea Of Robe Tea Of Oolong Tea.
2.Examine the dry leaves: Note their appearance, color and aroma. Check for leaf grade, presence of buds, tips, leaf shape, color and smell.
3.Prepare the tea infusion as prescribed. Ensure you use fresh water. Take into consideration the appropriate water temperature required for making a each tea type.
4.Once tea is brewed, separate the tea leaves from the infusion.
5.Examine the wet leaves. Note their appearance, color and aroma. Take a note of the leaf size at this stage of cupping. A vegetal aroma is considered a mark of a good, fresh tea.
6.Examine the tea liquor for its aroma and color. Look for transparency of liquor and evaluate its color. Bring the cup close to nose and smell the ‘attack’ (first notes). For a fresh tea, the aroma should be brisk and definite, without humid odor.
7.Examine the taste of the liquor. Take in a sip of tea with plenty of oxygen and roll it in your mouth. This will give you a basic estimate of whether the tea is sweet, bitter, acidic, or umami. Inhale and drink the tea. Now evaluate the tea’s aroma and palate notes. Check for body (light, medium or full), the level of astringency (low to high), pungency, texture (straight creamy or velvety), the complexity of flavors, and length of flavor (short, medium or long).