Tea cupping is the sign of a professional tea taster. Cupping is a system that tries to give the same parameters to each type of tea, so any flaws show up to the taster. The cupping set consists of a cup with a lid and a bowl to pour the tea into. The picture shows what the set looks like when the tea is done steeping. You observe the dry leaf, smelling it & recording your observations. A hint learned in class is, if the smell isn’t strong, try exhaling then inhaling on the leaves. The heat of your breath will release the oils in the leaf and increase the smell. Try this at home, it really works!
The next step is to weigh the tea and place it in the cup, hot water is added, temperature is dependent on type, but some people use boiling water for all teas. It might not be the best taste, but it will tell you if a tea is spoiled or inferior, that the lower temperature might mask.
I tend to cup at the temperature that is recommended for the tea type. Then the tea is poured out into the bowl when the steep time is reached. Observations of wet leaf are taken, noting smell and look of the leaf. The color & smell of the liquor in the bowl are noted, and tasted. The professionals slurp the tea off a spoon to get air in the tea and help to identify the different flavor notes in the tea. Cupping is kind of like wine tasting. The more you do it, the more sophisticated your palate gets and the more notes you can pick out of the tea.
Having taking all the classes to fulfill the Specialty Tea Institutes Level 3, I am now a Certified Tea Specialist.
Tea is one of those things where you keep learning as you go & cupping is the best way to learn about tea. So stop by our location on Montana Ave and sit at the bar, we will cup any of our teas for you.