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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why I stopped reviewing teas

You may have noticed that I no longer write reviews of teas, that is for many reasons, but due to some recent comments on MarshalN's post about what is sour, I felt it would make a good post to elaborate here. I will copy a comment made to a certain person that felt strongly that we could generate a so to speak Color system of Flavors.

You are approaching this as if senses can not be flawed even when they appear to be working normally. While the eyes tend to adjust faster because they are always taking in Data and recalabrating, there are times when eyes do not perceive certain colors as they should. Its what I call the Ski Goggle effect, you put on the orange ski goggles and everything looks off in color for awhile, but then after you wear them long enough you do not really notice the change and you can easily identify almost specifically certain colors in the same family even though you are using colored lenses. Then you take them off after a day full of skiing and now the colors seem off again, partially because your eyes had adjusted to the way things look with the orange goggles on.

The problem with taste is, while the taste senses are always registering what is in your mouth, that is not always guaranteed to return to some stable state allowing you to recalibrate then go from there again. Have you ever noticed how certain things do not taste right after drinking or eating certain things. Like Orange Juice is disgusting after brushing your teeth. Well most people do something in their mouth eat or drink something, and assume because they are not realizing they are tasting it two hours later that their mouth has returned to the exact same state as it was before they did that. Not to mention so much of taste is smell the condition of your breath plays a huge role in how your tastes are working at that particular time.

I have learned when you describe the flavor of something, it at best describes the flavor based on the condition of your mouth at that particular time. Now I never used to quite believe this whole pairing idea of pairing certain foods with certain drinks, but when viewed from this light it makes so much more sense. It uniformly sets everyone’s palate so close to the same area by having chocolate or cheese or what have you, so they all experience the beverage in a similar fashion, and it is usually such a choice that it sets their palate up so they taste certain aspects of the drink that people in general seem to find more attractive.

So in short I am with Marshal on this, because while it is easier to decide on some basic tastes most of which are quite cutting and apparent, sweet, salty, bitter, when we start to describe more complex flavors it really comes into play what we had for our last meal, or if we stood in a room full of smoke, etc.

In case that comment was not clear enough, let me elaborate a bit on my findings. I found out through tasting many things that items that should taste nearly identical during two or three separate tastings, and things wound up tasting incredibly different. While with tea this can usually be explained away into how attentive to brewing you were, but this happened with other items things such as Wine and Beer, things that the user has minimal interaction with. I could only come down to conclude, and upon further thought it made perfect sense, but the mouth is not a perfect system.

Like I described those of us whether color blind or not have come to expect things to look a certain way, so when something skews our sight as long as it is not a blur, but rather just a minor color change, our eyes adapt to those colors and eventually we do not realize we have that color change going on. Think about wearing sunglasses or Ski goggles.

In terms of taste though, it seems an endless almost vicious cycle where anything you eat or drink will have an effect on the taste of the next thing you eat or drink. While a bit of taste deprivation, by fasting for an extended period of time can help remove the tastes to more neutral. The effect that has on the breath can then hinder your tastes. So much of taste is dependent on the aroma's present while doing the tasting.

Why I gave up on reviewing teas, is I often felt that even though I could often identify certain key flavors I said before but certain of them even to me seemed like I was at times reaching for things, at other times I could identify every flavor and think I tasted even more. So in short I lost a bit of confidence my ability to write reviews that would consistently be true. I firmly believe my sense of taste works just fine as I believe most others tastes do. But what I came to realize is we can rarely rely on our tastes to be perfect or ideal, no matter how we prep them.

Not to mention while reviewing teas was both helpful in the sense that it forced me to pay complete attention to the tea and give it deep thought, but at the same time I was focused on the tea, but not appreciating the tea. All these things put together lead me to desire to find a deeper appreciation of tea beyond that of just a drink.
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