|From field to cup is a tricky journey! (stock image)|
The aroma of your dry tea leaves and of the steeped tea in your cup is usually a pure delight. But sometimes that wonderful nuttiness or fruitiness or floral character or even chocolaty aroma is lacking and in its place is something rather “funny” (and not the ha-ha kind of funny but the crinkle-up-your-nose-in-disgust kind of funny). Not good.
Bear in mind that some teas have some rather unusual aromas. Things like scallops, asparagus, wet moss, and more. That’s not the kind of unpleasant funny we’re talking about here, unless you’re getting those odors from a tea that’s not supposed to have them. And that’s the key. That funny smell is anything other than what the tea is supposed to have according to the vendor’s description. While vendors can’t always be accurate on these things and while everyone’s nose is different, they shouldn’t be too far off the mark. Different teas are processed to produce certain flavors and aromas by tea masters who have been trained for years (no correspondence school classes here – strictly hands-on).
No, that funny smell has to be the result of something else. Poor storage conditions is the first thing that comes to mind. Your tea could have absorbed the smell of some strongly odored substance (such as a bag of yellow onions) that was nearby. Avoid this by assuring that your storage container is airtight and well sealed. Another culprit is excess moisture getting to those leaves prematurely (that is, before you are ready to steep them). Tea leaves are very dry and so will absorb moisture fairly readily. Even a small amount could be a problem, leading to mold growth or a stale taste and smell. Time is also a culprit here, from the moment the tea leaves are plucked off the bush until you end up steeping them. Getting the leaves from the field to the processor is a key period. White teas and green teas have to be stopped from oxidizing. Oolongs can’t be let oxidize too much. Pu-erhs need to be oxidized in the right way. Black teas aren’t quite such an issue, though, since they get fully oxidized. Once processed, the teas are still under a time crunch, needing to be stored safely to retain the qualities the tea masters have imparted to them during that processing.
Phew! All things considered, I guess that not having your tea smell funny is the true miracle of the tea master’s art. All the more reason to treat your teas carefully once you get them.