One of the biggest divides in the tea world concerns slurping, and whether or not it improves the flavor of a tea. While considered rude by proper English rules, we always advocate slurping your sip for the best flavor experience. Our favorite technique is to sip a small amount, then gently draw air in through pursed lips to aerate the liquid. While it can take a little practice to get right, we’ve got three good reasons for you to give it a try.
1. It helps to cool the tea.
While the small cups typically used in gong fu cha are designed to cool tea quickly, most tea drinkers have experienced the enticement of a fresh cup that lures us to sip too soon. In fact, almost any heat can distract the palate, so cooling the tea in the mouth with a slurp almost always adds a layer of complexity to the flavor.
2. It adds oxygen to the tea.
The addition of oxygen to the liquid releases more flavor compounds, just as it does in wine when tasters swirl their glasses and slurp in a similar fashion. Japanese noodle culture is also well known for the encouragement of loud slurping as a sign of flavor appreciation, and one recent study has linked slurping to more intense flavor in soup.
3. It coats the entire palate.
Slurping pulls the tea across the whole surface of your tongue, picking up flavor molecules and drawing them toward your olfactory passage. Taking this moment to let the tea linger in your mouth is the most important part of the tasting process. Making sure the tea reaches every part of your palate allows for analysis of where the flavor is strongest, or where it lingers even after the tea has been swallowed.
Most of all, slurping encourages mindful tasting, since it prevents big gulps. Slurping sips from a small cup rather than drinking from a large mug can reveal a whole new side of almost any brew. Use this technique to help train your tasting palate, and let us know in the comments below how slurping changes your tasting experience!
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