Retronasal Tea Tasting
Step onto any tea importer cupping room and you will hear a slurry of slurps, gulps, and this unusual sound that is reminiscent of a jet engine taking off. Though what they are doing would not be universally accepted at the dinner table, at the cupping table it is a huge asset and a critical step in the evaluation process of traditional tea.
What you are hearing is called retronasal or olfactory tasting.
Often we come across people who are new to tasting tea and the interaction goes something like this:
*Places cup to lips*
"That is way hot, I'm gonna let it cool for a second"
*Five minutes later*
"Tastes warm...interesting texture, vegetal?"
Often the biggest step that is missing is retro nasal tasting. This serves a few important purposes:
- Cools down tea so you can taste at the proper temperature
- Oxygen interacts with the Catechin's, Volitle Oils, and Amino Acids on your palette
- Air goes from your lungs to your olfactory bulb in your brain which detects taste
What does retronasal tasting look like?
Here is a side view of what the process looks like anatomically.
Here is a step by step guide of how to taste in this way:
- Slurp the tea vigorously into your mouth
- Move it around your mouth so it coats all taste buds on your tongue
- Swallow Tea
- Breathe out up through your throat and out of your nose with your mouth closed
A few tips for making this easier - the smaller the cup the better. In this way when you slurp in it will be easier to get it onto your tongue without feeling the temperature sensation. Slow down and eliminate all distractions like sound. Do not eat for an hour before the tasting. Use proper temperature water and a scale. Finally smell the brewed leaves as you are tasting to help develop more dimensions to the experience.