The taste of tea is a top reason people even bother with to drink tea. (Another big reason is the hope that various health benefit claims have some grains of truth in them.) The aftertaste, therefore, can make or break that experience and, in fact, are the keys to that experience. Read on to see why.
|Tiny (by Western standards) sipping cups help you experience aftertaste.|
A bit about what aftertaste is: as the term implies, this is the final impression on your tastebuds and the roof of your mouth, even in your nasal passages, after you swallow the liquid. For some tea connoisseurs, the aftertaste is everything. In fact, you could say that it reveals the tea’s true nature.
Bad Aftertaste Ruins the Experience
Recently, I read a tea review where the author stated that the aftertaste of the tea in question was so unpleasant that it ruined the entire experience. I could relate to that from my own personal experiences. A tea I had recently had a wonderful initial flavor and mouthfeel. Then I swallowed. The aftertaste was like a cup of liquid charcoal in my mouth. The joy of that initial flavor was obliterated and then some. For centuries, this bad aftertaste prompted people to add things to tea to mask that aftertaste. A prime example is CTC Assam tea, where the aftertaste is quite bitter. Along comes the solution: masala chai, full of spices and milk. It’s a tasty brew but a far cry from a nice tippy black tea from Assam where the flavors are not marred by that strong and unpleasant aftertaste. Also, many folks claim that green teas have a bitter aftertaste – and they do if they are improperly infused. In fact, the importance of properly infusing teas cannot be stressed enough here. Proper teawares, proper water temperature and quality, and proper infusing times are the biggest factors. An overly roasted tea that is also overly infused will give you an burnt aftertaste that will linger in a most unpleasant manner.
Good Aftertaste Makes the Experience Worthwhile
A good aftertaste, as previously mentioned, can reveal your tea’s true nature. This seems to me to be especially true for floral oolongs. Dancong Gardenia, for example, will have a lovely gardenia floral quality to the aftertaste. One way to enhance your perception of that aftertaste, and thus increase your tea experience, is to slurp. Yep, slurp. Take in a modest mouthful (about a teaspoonful for most of us) along with some air. It will help increase the aroma perception, and that will enhance your taste experience, including the aftertaste. Some teas won’t have that pleasantness no matter what you do, but most premium teas will, so make the most of them. Here’s also where proper teawares will come to play. If you are using a ceramic teapot that is holds 16 ounces or more for such teas, consider switching to a Yixing teapot (you will need a separate teapot for each type of tea you make) or even a gaiwan (you can use the same one for various types of teas – just be sure to clean after each use). Consider getting an aroma/sipping cup set so you can enjoy these teas in a manner that is often what the tea master had in mind – taking in the aroma and then slurping the liquid in for a full mouth experience.
Don’t miss out on the best part of your tea – the aftertaste!