Tasting whisky (and it is the same with tea tasting) is more like a beauty competition. Although there will be some kind of objective standards, it is still, mostly, determined by personal preferences.
Mr. Wu said ” Usually, in order to win the competition, the tea merchant will send his best blender to buy the best aromatic tea in the market (but, such tea is less in flavor naturally), and the most flavored tea (but less in aroma). And then he mixed them and roasted together in order to improve its overall quality. On the contrary, the tea farmer will only choose the best tea made by himself for the competition. Look at the tea leaves and you will know. “
The word of tea master reminds me of a little story of mine (it is about whisky, but related to tea as well). Few weeks ago, I attended a whisky tasting event hosted by Brian Kinsman, the Glenfiddich’s master distiller. We had 3 sets of whisky. Each set contains
- An original cask strength Glenfiddich (a original cask strength means a whisky taken out directly from the cask, without blending with whisky in other casks or diluting with water)
- A single malt Glenfiddich using the previous cask as a base (a single malt whisky allows to be blended with other casks within the same distillery and to be diluted with water).
What we did is to drink (1) first and then to taste (2). Generally, such arrangement is designed to highlight the superiority of the second one by the contrast of the first one. It was also in line with the master distiller’s intention. Here he has said “The first original cask strength is a semi-finished product, while the second single malt is a finished work in which he blended the first cask along with other casks in order to improve the overall qualities.”
However, what I felt is totally different. I liked the original cask strength more than the blended version. It is not that the quality of the master distiller’s work is bad. But, I have my own preference which is just not shared by the master distiller’s mind.
Tasting whisky (and it is the same with tea tasting) is more like a beauty competition. Although there will be some kind of objective standards, it is still, mostly, determined by personal preferences. As a starter in Whisky or in Tea, we are often lack of confidence in ourselves, and therefore seeking other people’s advices. But, remember everyone has his own preference. What is good to me is not necessarily good to you. Even Jim Murray, the writer of Whisky Bible, admits he has preferences in evaluating whisky.
He said “Listen to the deep inside of your heart. Listen to what the whisky talks to you, not the whisky merchant and the so called whisky expert.”
I think this applies to tea as well, and very suitably to conclude this article.