Many criteria are involved when evaluating a tea’s quality and deeper nature. Even before the tea is consumed, aroma and color offer a preview, or an initial impression of its character. If one does not see the tea as it’s prepared, aroma will introduce the tea. Aroma permeates the atmosphere and has the ability to waft outward from the brewing station and entice from afar.
First impressions are important, and in terms of sensory evaluation, aroma is big. According to Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg’s The Flavor Bible, “Aroma is thought to be responsible for as much as 80% or more of flavor.” This may explain the popularity of scented teas such as jasmine pearls and Earl Grey. Such teas employ the floral sweetness of jasmine and bergamot to induce distinctive aromas. However, this sometimes involves artificial agents. Spend more time with tea and its complex aromatic nature will slowly reveal itself.
Oolong teas are incredibly aromatic and driven by real flavors. By “real,” I mean that upon experiencing these aromas, there is no sensation of the artificial. The aroma may be strong but it will not overpower. In fact, the aroma of an oolong is often an amalgam of several elements, tightly layered. A scented tea, in contrast, is often singular. Often, the aroma of oolong is similar to that of flowers, fruits, or other vegetal elements from the Earth. In effect, a tea’s aromatic portrait references it’s agricultural origins. In this way, experiencing oolong’s aroma, simply and deeply, offers an opportunity to connect with nature.
Use your nose!