If you go online to sites like Facebook, you’ve seen photos of rows of those professional tea tasting sets – this one by Rajiv Lochan, owner of Doke Tea Garden where our Doke Black Fusion tea is from. They were once found only in tea factories (shown here is the Jungpana Tea Factory, one of the Darjeeling tea gardens). More and more tea aficionados are purchasing these sets to have at home. They can be handy and give a quick series of infusions of your teas. Shopping for these professional tea tasting sets is pretty straightforward, too, but you should keep a few things in mind.
1 – Get a set with all the needed components
Mostly, these sets are comprised of the infusing cup with lid and a sipping bowl. Simple. But others come with extras, such as a saucer for the sipping bowl or a tasting spoon for that professional style slurping experience.
2 – Watch the notch
The lidded cup for infusing the tea will have one or more notches on the side opposite the handle. They seem to come in two different styles: a single larger notch and a sawtooth notch arrangement. The larger notch can let smaller leaf pieces come through while the sawtooth style will catch them better. Which you use is up to your personal preference. If you infuse teas with larger pieces, the single notch will be fine.
3 – Bowl shapes vary
The bowls will vary from more straight sided (left) to more curved (right). The big issue is how well the infuser cup will sit inside this bowl.
If you are shopping in person, take a moment, if possible, to see how the infusing cup sits in the bowl. It should be steady. It helps with balance if the handle points straight up, as shown in the photo. Keep the leaves in the cup until you are done with the infusions (many fine teas can be infused 5 or more times). When the last infusion is done, spoon out the leaves onto the lid (upside down) and set it on the cup just for show (great for when you have guests in for a tea tasting event).
5 – Infuser cup capacity
There is not much variation in size here 4 to 6 ounces seems to be the range. For multiple infusions, this amount should be just about right and close to what most gaiwans (lidded steeping bowls) hold.
One last tip
You will note that I didn’t mention price. The sets seem to range from $11 to around $26. More expensive is not necessarily better. And if you get a deal on buying more than on set and can afford it, go ahead. It’s a great way to compare teas, something that is fun and enlightening.