If you are passionate about chocolate or ramen or any other kind of food or beverage you’re likely trying to eat or drink it any chance you get. It’s also likely you want to try different varieties of your favored item in order to compare and contrast them. We do this naturally, constantly comparing things, and our taste buds have pretty good memory of the things that we eat and drink.
Tea is the same way, sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the variety that exists and I wonder if I’ll ever get to try them all! This of course would be impossible- as tea is a living plant that is affected by environment, handling, and so many other things that even the same type of tea from the same place will be different the next year- even if just ever so slightly. However, the best way to train our palette to pick out subtle nuances in tea is to compare them side by side changing one variable at a time. This can give us some shocking results as we will be able to pick out things we may not have been able to notice while drinking them in isolation. Horizontal tasting provides an immediate opportunity to compare flavors, smells, and textures (mouthfeel) that we would not be able to if we only went off of memory. While I love to enjoy single teas, my most enjoyable sessions are when I do side by side comparisons. Each time it’s a learning experience, I’m always surprised at how little I actually knew about a certain tea until I had a chance to compare it. This method of tasting tea really helps one to gain a deeper appreciation of each tea and all that is entailed to make it. It amazes me to think that even though a tea may be processed the same exact way, if it’s grown in a different area, it will taste different. As I said, tea is alive- it is affected by many things, just as people are.
I could be a 27 year old female that grew up with two parents, one brother, and a chihuahua in northern Illinois and there may be another 27 year old female who also grew up with two parents, a brother, and a chihuahua plus shares my ethnic background and even had similar life experiences than I have but lives in Colorado. This young woman, even though we share many similarities, would still be noticeably different than I am. Why? Because her environment would have been drastically different than mine. Granted, she could even live next door and she would still be different than I am. Changing just one variable changes the character of tea, even if it is ever so subtle, it is still not the same. Imagine the differences that can come from changing more variables! The possibilities are endless and exploring them brings an equally endless excitement.
Camellia’s Treaty (art. 1) The environment people live in will affect their character. Even though we may find people who seemingly share all, or most of our traits, they are still unique. Many choose to surround themselves with individuals similar to themselves because there is comfort, security, and understanding in these relationships. However, there is still only one you- this can feel both incredibly lonely and exhilaratingly exciting all at once. The best way we can learn more about ourselves is by surrounding ourselves with others. Not to compare our value as a person but to savor the richness of our human similarities while simultaneously awe at the exclusive differences in each individual.