Tea tasting is the process in which a trained taster determines the quality of a particular tea. Due to climatic conditions, topography, manufacturing process, and different clones of the Camellia sinensis plant (tea), the final product may have vastly differing flavors and appearance. These differences can be tasted by a trained taster in order to ascertain the quality prior to sale or possibly blending tea.
A tea taster uses a large spoon and noisily slurps the liquid into his/her mouth – this ensures that both the tea and plenty of oxygen is passed over all the taste receptors on the tongue to give an even taste profile of the tea. The liquid is then usually spat back out into a spitoon before moving onto the next sample to taste. The flavor characteristics and indeed leaf color, size and shape are graded using a specific language created by the tea industry to explain the overall quality. Generally speaking, once the quality has been tasted/graded, each tea company places a value on it based on market trends, availability and demand.
Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea produced through a unique process including withering under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. Most oolong teas, especially those of fine quality, involve unique tea plant cultivars that are exclusively used for particular varieties. The degree of oxidation can range from 8 to 85%, depending on the variety and production style. Oolong is especially popular with tea connoisseurs of south China and Chinese expatriates in Southeast Asia, as is the Fujian preparation process known as the Gongfu tea ceremony.
Several subvarieties of oolong, including those produced in the Wuyi Mountains of northern Fujian, such as Da Hong Pao, are among the most famous Chinese teas.
Different varieties of oolong are processed differently, but the leaves are formed into one of two distinct styles. Some are rolled into long curly leaves, while others are ‘wrap-curled’ into small beads, each with a tail. The former style is the more traditional of the two in China.