The Art of Tea Tasting

A small group of tea lovers gathered at NEOTTE – a newly opened tea bar in downtown Palo Alto to listen to Mathew Hui, the founder of NEOTTE, to describe the origin of different teas, methods of tea-making, and the art of Chinese tea tasting culture, which virtually non-exists in the United States.

According to Hui, the custom of drinking tea can be traced back to thousands of years ago in China. In (618-907 A.D.), a man named Lu Yu (??) first documented the knowledge on tea into a book – the Tea Classic (??). His work helped to popularize the art of tea drinking all across China, and even to spread to neighboring countries.

Many people in this country have never seen loose-leaf tea. In its effort to spread the Chinese tea culture, NEOTTE serves only highest quality loose-leaf tea made from the young and tender leaves of the tea tree. Depending on the origins and processing methods, Chinese teas are divided into six categories: White Tea, Green Tea, Oolong Tea, Red Tea, Black Tea, and Herbal Tea, with each of them having distinctive health merits.

Growing up in “tea country” – Hangzhou, my favorite tea is Green Tea. Studies have shown that Green Tea has many health benefits including rich anti-oxidants, cancer-prevention and anti-aging properties. The herbal tea “Eight Babes” is another favorite. It consists of rose petal, Chinese matrimony-vines, dried longans, lotus seeds, chrysanthemums, red jujubes, green raisins and rock sugar. It has a soothing taste and can help to improve the eyesight and prevent colds. For ladies, it has additional beauty effects.

In addition to all the health benefits of tea, another important aspect is the art of tea tasting, which is very similar to wine tasting in this country. It takes into consideration the shape of the tea, the color, the aroma and taste. The full aroma and sweetness of the tea can be brought out with correct water temperature, the amount of tea leaves used, and the type of teapot.

Chinese consider tea drinking a way of life. The tea culture is encompassed in the art, literature, philosophy and customs throughout the history of China. It’s an experience of a cultivated art with a rich history. From now on, drinking tea will never be quite the same to me: a sip of tea reflects a warm relationship between humankind and nature.

Acknowledgement: thanks to CAEA that graciously organized this tea tasting event. CAEA is an organization dedicated to explore the differences in manners and customs between Chinese and American cultures in today’s technological enviroment.

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60 thoughts on “The Art of Tea Tasting

  1. Is it in bad taste to ask for cream and sugar in your hot tea? I cant drink hot tea without cream and sugar, I love coffe with cream and sugar, I love sodas with sugar, maybe I just have a killer sugar habit. I think I will go make some tea.

  2. Beryl, Eight Babes tea is special blend of herbs. At this time, I am not aware any place that actually sells it (it’s a shame – perhaps someone should start a business to sell Eight Babes tea :-)). I guess it’s NEOTTE’s house special.

  3. Fascinating. I’ve had to skip the comments because of time strictures Helen, so you might have already anwered this, but how can one get “Eight Babes” tea?

  4. Good article Helen. While I tend to drink coffee primarily, tea is a wonderfully relaxing drink. I especially like the ritual of preparation. I tend toward the stronger flavored teas. In fact, lapsang souchong is my favorite. Well done.

  5. I actually had been working on a post on the excellent health and mental benefits of Green Tea, funny coincidence. Green Tea is most definitely my favorite of all teas to enjoy every morning; my morning muse.
    Are the tea-tastings common to Northern California or is it becoming a wider trend? I would love to look into it. I used to work at Starbucks and one of the requirements to work was to continually taste and describe the coffees. One could become a “Coffee Master.” Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy unaltered coffee. But just as I left the company, they began a new program for Tazo tea tastings. I was bummed!

  6. Beryl, you can buy eight babe tea at Ten Ren tea store. It’s also available online:

    Lea and Steve, thank you for stopping by!

    Shiva, I will take a look of the website. I am still having tea everyday even living in a city.

    bellovoce, Yes, there are more tea bars in northern Califorenia. Although still not mainstream, it’s getting more and more popular.

  7. How wonderful for Palo Alto! I was there a couple of years ago to visit my brother and thought that a tea bar would do well in this university town.

    I checked out their website – Neotte sounds like a wonderful place, and anyone who takes the time to conduct a tea tasting session is a-ok in my book!

    Thanks for the informative post.

  8. Hi,

    Thanks for visiting my blog. There is another place in Palo Alto called Tea Time. It’s also very good. Are you writing a book about tea?

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