Tea for Two, Two for Tea

Tea for Two, Two for Tea
Today, we are getting snooty about aroma, flavor & texture.

Stick that pink finger out! (Actually, don't. It's rude and connotes elitism.) Tuck that pinky back in.

Like we've said before chai is not just your average beverage, it is an experience. Being mindful while enjoying food and beverages is the best way to savor chai. 
At The Chai Bar, black tea blends are made using a tea variety known as Camellia sinensis var. assamica. Generally speaking black tea offers a malty flavor that is dark brown and exudes earthy aromas. But each black tea blend is made differently, the tea leaves can be steamed, fried, smoked, or roasted for different flavors, these leaves are then hand-blended using the highest quality of botanicals, herbs, and spices. The flavor profile of each blend extends far beyond the general description of black tea. Our senses get to work on flavor profiling right from the minute we open the tea tin, we begin seeing the tea leaves, beautiful hints of spices, streaks of herbs and botanicals, then we pick up the scent of the dry tea blend, after that, we move on to making the chai. Adding it to a pot of simmering water releases deeper bolder tones of tea and spices, adding milk adds a subtle creaminess, after straining we are finally ready to take the first sip. 
Nearly ninety percent of flavor is perceived by smell. Much like any other food, you start a new tea experience with aroma. Smell the leaves while they are dry before you start brewing the chai. Here you can recognize the subtle scents like marigold and allow your senses to pick up the warmth of the spices. After adding the tea leaves to the water, get a whiff or two of the simmering brew as it builds its depth of flavor. You can also pick up on if you have over-brewed the leaves when the tea starts smelling rather bitter or high in tannins. 
So, when you are brewing chai, your body begins to describe the aroma. Kind of like giving the taste buds a heads-up on what to expect. The sense of smell to create “families” or “categories” of similar aromas, identifying if the tea has bright or deep; earthy, floral or spicy; delicate or bold, and more. It associates the scents with memories and experiences which trigger feelings. For instance, our Lavender Marigold Chai - Mangalyam is an aromatic floral blend with a touch of natural sweetness and subtle tones of citrusy marigold to us it is reminiscent of a bike ride through the grasslands. The scents of some chai like Classic Masala may transform you to a distant land where a small clay cup of steaming hot chai is served to you by a tea vendor with a chai street cart. 
Tea can remind you of rain, spring, festivals, and more! What does our chai remind you of ? Let us know in the comments down below. 
The sense of taste is a rather tricky one, it is determined by much more than the actual taste defined by the tastebuds. When we drink chai, our senses have an idea of the flavor before the beverage even meets our lips. Ever tried slurping tea? If you want to discern the different flavor profiles, tea slurping is the way to go. Let's see why -
  1. Slurping tea cools it down, turns out temperature affects flavor and we can taste more with cooler tea. 
  2.  Slurping mixes tea with air and allows the aromatics of the tea to escape the liquid so you're able to take in the aroma. #nerdalert [Slurping allows the Olfactory Gland to recognize flavor. This gland is situated at the back of our eyes and nose. It has fine hair on its surface to capture molecules of what we smell and taste.]
  3. Oxygenating tea reduces astringency and softens tannins.  
  4. Slurping allows the tea to reach all corners of the mouth
Once the tea is in your mouth, it coats into tongue and signals flavor receptors to profile it. This is why temperature is so important to identify the flavor. The depth of the palate is keener when the tea is not too hot but still hot enough that's why low-quality tea can taste so bad when it comes to room temperature. 
If we choose to enjoy chai mindfully, letting the tea linger on our tongue, by the time we gulp the first sip our body has developed a well-rounded flavor profile, comparing not only the aroma but also the taste to places and experiences. If we allow ourselves to experience sensations fully, tea can leave us with our senses tingling!  
If you're wondering how a liquid can have a texture then read on. 
Texture in tea tasting means the lasting endnotes of the chai. Just as the tea looks Tippy when plucked with a consistent amount of golden or silver color on the tips of the leaves, smells woody when smoked, and on blending it has headnotes that are earthy and floral. On tasting the first sip we can taste body notes of Malty Assam Black Tea i.e. a hearty malted barley taste and endnotes that can be brisk, citrusy, gingery, or even creamy. We can identify these after swallowing the chai by our breathing through the nose to alert the olfactory gland and determining the depth of the flavor. For instance, on breathing, we could be able to identify the astringency in tannins which is often misrecognized as bitterness. 
Uniquely in Sugrisma and other iced chai, cooling the chai revels hidden textures of spices without an overwhelming "chai" flavor of tea leaves. 
What is your favorite chilled chai? Have you identified any hidden flavors in our blends? 
Try taking these tasting tips to task by using aroma, flavor and texture to decide which tea blend you like the most and develop tea pairings of chai and food for high-tea.
Thats all for now! See you next week. 
Chai  Bye, 
Co-authored by Sargam Merchant and Madura Chaudhari

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