Friday, October 25, 2013

Sampling to meet your goals

 If you are a new to tea, sampling is perfect for getting to know tea and once again when you want to find new favorites or expand your experience. As a more seasoned tea drinker, sampling helps to spot bad quality, undesired traits or the way around by helping you find exactly what you were looking for.  It seems like all around win-win, but you have to be careful not to fall into anything past sampling… like hoarding.

Portion of my previous sample hoarding.
 Hoarding samples is the counterproductive thing you can do while trying to sample tea.  What defines hoarding? Hoarding is literally to amass or store huge amounts of anything. But at least in my opinion, is anything you accumulate past being useful/practical; like any samples you don’t drink before buying other samples. It doesn’t sound like much but if you continue you will find yourself with samples that you didn’t even remember you had. Worse yet, samples you have tried and barely remember what they are like (which defeats the purpose of sampling completely).  This happened to me while I was trying to find Puerh I would like to Age/store and try others I had not tried before. The other problem is tea going stale. Tea goes stale over time and more so when not stored properly. Puerh will not go stale at the same level other tea does, but it is still very prone to cross contamination (smells/taste) from sources nearby and will change in taste in a unfavorable environment.  

 All of this happens because you are not aware it is an issue of it until… you become aware of it (too late). Hopefully these tips will help you avoid falling into hoarding tea:

1.       Set a goal! Even if you think that the more you get the more you’ll learn/experience, in general humans have a short attention span/memory for things that are not constant or fail to trigger your curiosity right away. So instead of trying a bunch of teas, narrow down the search and tasting. You could even make it an elimination tasting and rid yourself of the ones you don’t like right away. Be sure to know if you are looking for something specific or barely exploring. Setting this goal will make sure you don’t drift into just buying samples on a whim.

2.       Set a limit! As part of effectively learning and/or deciding, you need to pace yourself. Set a maximum number of samples you want to try within a time frame. Tea takes time to truly appreciate its potential; only two types of tea are easy to make your mind about right away; incredible tea and terrible tea.

3.       Move on… The tea you tried and didn’t like or didn’t stand out will only take up space in some drawer or container.  You can share the samples you don’t want/like with others. Someone might like a tea you didn’t or at least you’ll save them money from buying it themselves.

4.       TAKE NOTES!!!!  If you are trying to find the best tea for you, or just one of a specific kind you may want to write down which ones you liked and didn’t like. That way if you look back you don’t have to wonder OR reorder samples.

note: I take regular taste ‘notes’ to remind me what it tasted like. But if you are running a side by side comparison (similar teas from different shops/grades/seasons/years) sometimes having your own rating system helps.
Side by side tasting is a great way to spot less obvious differences

5.       Steep, enjoy, learn and repeat!

Hopefully this will save some of you some time, money and make sampling that much enjoyable.


  1. Look forward to your 2014 posts!

  2. Thanks for reading Mark! I will post again soon.