Saturday, March 5, 2011

The rainbow connection to tea flavors

Something that's been the subject of our local tea meetup lately: the aroma wheel. Introduced in a recent discussion at Adagio Teas, the aroma wheel is a staple of oenophiles — a set of concentric adjectives that help you get at just what flavor you're trying to describe. In the center are broader terms (woody, nutty, fruity, floral), surrounded by a middle ring of more detailed terms (woody leads to resinous, phenolic and burned), surrounded by a larger rim of even more precise adjectives.

At the Nada teahouse this weekend, for instance, we were given samples of their buckwheat tea. Many of us followed the wheel through "woody" toward the "burnt toast," "coffee" and "oak" flavors. "Tea masquerading as coffee," someone said.

Some of the terms make sense in the world of wine but seem strange in the teahouse — microbiological, sweaty, horsey, asparagus, banana — but it's still a helpful kickstart for those of us, even writers, occasionally flailing for the precise word. I myself, unfortunately, have had a "wet dog" tea.

Download a copy of the wheel here.
(Thanks, Fatenah!)

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