People’s taste buds really are different. And I guess that is one reason why I do what I do at the Studio—let people taste a lot of tea to find out what they like.
In my Tea Discovery class we taste seven teas—all single origin and unflavored: one white, one green, two oolongs, two black teas and one pu’erh. I typically introduce teas that most Americans haven’t tried (or even heard of) in order to expand their palate and experience. Surprise, surprise… using the same variety, and, keeping steeping times and temperatures consistent, there is quite a bit of variation in response to the teas from person to person.
The other night I steeped a dragonwell green tea, which I had used in several other Discovery classes. Three people loved it—commented on the toasty notes—and two people thought it was grassy. One thought it was a little bitter. I am a big fan of dragonwell and feel pretty good about the particular one I carry so it was surprising to hear “bitter”. As I have led my classes, this difference in taste perception carries through all five true tea varieties…and continues to humble me. As a tea retailer, I buy what I think tastes great and true to the variety, and is a good value for the customer. One particular tea doesn’t always please every palate though and I have to accept how different we all are.
So what’s the point of all this? As we introduce good quality, favorite teas to people who may be new to tea, we have to accept and respect the process of the tea journey for each individual. They may never like what we think they should like, but the world of tea is vast, and each person usually finds one that is truly satisfying.