Things learned in a year of seriously tasting teas


It’s been about a year since I started Form Follows Tea. In that year, I’ve posted 100+ reviews of teas, and drank many more that I declined to post to the site.

In doing so, I’ve been tasting teas as seriously as I know how as a consumer, and the experience has given me much to consider. Here’s a list of a few of these things tasting tea has taught me, in no particular order:

- Trust yourself, but only so far

Comparative blind tastings continue to remind me of the nagging persistence of bias. While my tasting notes themselves are my honest perceptions, when it comes time to guess which tea is which, I fail more often than not.

 Through my failures, I’ve learned I tend to assume the tea I like the most is the most expensive. This is what’s known as price bias and relates to how our brains conflate price with value. Even with awareness of this bias, it’s difficult to overcome and simply follow my observations.


- Reviewing tea and casually drinking tea are completely separate things

In my opinion, it’s a goal mindset that divides the two.

When I review a tea, my goal is to analyze and understand the tea and experiences surrounding it as thoroughly as I can. In line with that goal, I focus completely on that tea, avoiding any distractions (no reading a book or browsing the internet, etc). The procedure I follow for tea reviews is strict and doesn’t always produce the best cup of tea. But it creates a cup that can be fairly compared to others produced in the same way.

In contrast, when I drink tea casually, I don’t place limits on myself or the preparation. I enjoy whatever the session brings. This could be a moment of introspection, a gathering among friends, a goofy tea experiment, an arrangement of fine utensils…there is no singular way to enjoy tea.

You will never hear me say that a certain approach is superior; rather each is like a specific tool best suited to particular settings. This mindset applies even to my own formalized way of reviewing teas – while this is the method most suitable for me, I believe that there is value in tea reviews done more casually since casually is how most drinkers enjoy tea!


- Tasting is a skill, and just like any skill, you use it or lose it

Over the past year, there have been times when travel has halted my steady stream of tastings. During these times, I can’t use my standard set up and instead drink tea more casually.

When I return home and begin my tasting routines again, I’m always surprised to find how difficult it is to differentiate specific aspects of the tea. To name aromas, to focus on the evolution of textures. I’m slow to understand, and my perceptions are muddled. I try some teas I’ve tasted before and find that I can’t sense as many nuances as I could previously.

It’s the same feeling as attempting to speak a foreign language after a few months or even weeks of non-use. And the only remedy? More practice.


What lessons have you learned from drinking tea, whether in a formalized process or in a casual set up?`

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Lew Perin

    Thanks, and not for the first time, for your candor!

    1. formfollowstea

      And thanks for reading!

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