The Dubai International Coffee & Tea Festival provided me with an opportunity to meet with Mr. John Taylor, Marketing Manager at Nepal Tea. I approached him wanting to hear about his life experience in Tea but here I met someone who did not want to talk about himself, but rather only talk about tea. He was kind enough to let me sit down for a tea tasting while he broke down the process. And thus I had the joy of experiencing a deconstructed tea tasting.
一期一会 (Ichi-go ichi-e): “one opportunity, one encounter”
“Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur” and “every encounter is an opportunity”.
His family owned a tea estate that was later sold off. He would visit the tea plantation as a young boy and thus had a first-hand experience of the process. It was a connection that took place from a very young age and the passion he has for tea still stays true.
He arranged a small tea tasting session for myself and another tea enthusiast from Holland. Personally, for me, it was a very calming, peaceful forty-five minutes amid the activities at the festival.
Himalayan Ruby, Hand rolled floral (Black tea) and Snow Buds (White tea) were the three teas that he picked for the tasting.
Using a traditional tea scale he measured out the tea into three steeping cups.
These are a couple of pointers that he gave me on tea tasting. When you sit down for a cup of tea, think of the following.
(1) The look of the tea
Take a minute to admire the path your tea came through before it reached your cup. Some teas are shaped into elegant curves, some rolled into tiny balls and various other shapes.
(2) The smell of the tea
Take a whiff of the tea leaves before the steeping process. Once steeped bring up the tea leaves for another sniff. John told me not to be shy and to just put my nose in the tea leaves. A first for me and I thoroughly enjoyed tea leaves tickling my nose and the inviting fragrance of the leaves.
Post-steeping the fragrance of the leaves would have changed quite a bit. Give yourself a minute to think about how the aroma has changed.
(3) Finally the taste
Each to his own cup. This is where everything slows down and you focus on the subtleties of the tea. It could be the texture, the brightness or depth of the flavor and even the aftertaste that lingers.
Mr. John says that what you smell is what you should taste in your cup.
Once I was done with my tea, I was left with a cooling, sweet taste in my mouth. As important as the first taste is the finishing taste.
To me, the tasting was quite a personal experience. Each person has a different and unique connection with the tea in his or her cup.
Mr. John Taylor
Mr.John is a tea specialist and tea taster based in Kathmandu, Nepal. He tastes over forty cups of tea a day. I was curious as to how he cleanses his palette after each tasting. He says there is no set cleansing process., just take a moment before each new cup.
Deciding when to move the tea leaves says Mr.John from rolling to fermenting is simply by smell. Changes in weather are reflected in the tea leaves which can be sensed through touch and feel of the leaves.
The point he stressed on was that as in mastering any skill tea tasting and the systematic study of tea takes time.
I would have loved to spend the day talking to him and tasting different teas but like every encounter, this also had to come to an end. I was fascinated at his skill, his in-depth knowledge, his passion for tea and the care with which he handles the subject. For a minute he drifts off into thought simply saying how much he missed the serenity of the mountains. Mr.John Taylor who lives every waking moment of his life in tea. No exaggeration. Just inspiration.
I someday wish to visit a tea plantation in Nepal and experience the fields and the processing that follows. A cup of tea with a tea picker would be very interesting.
For now, I close my eyes sipping on my white tea trying to picture the misty mountains dotted with tea pickers getting through another day and another couple thousands of tea cups around the world.