Category : Tea tasting

Tea tasting with Manuel, “Meilleur Sommelier de France”

Named “Meilleur Sommelier de France” (“Best Sommelier of France”), Manuel Peyrondet is also interested in tea. He came to taste some premium teas with me, prepared at room temperature, meaning they were steeped for exactly an hour in water at 20°C. We talked about tea and food pairings, accompanied by Vanessa Zochetti, who was interviewing us for the next issue of Bruits de Palais. Tasting tea with a sommelier, especially Manuel, who used to be a sommelier at the Hotel George V, as well as the head sommelier at Taillevent, then at the Royal-Monceau, is a unique experience. In the world of fine food and drink, we often live in our bubble, focusing on our specialist product: wine for Manuel, tea for me. It’s really strange to move outside this world, to focus on how we respond to different textures, aromas and flavours. It leads to particularly enriching discussions.

And for those who don’t just drink tea, Manuel runs a wine club, which is an excellent way to build up a collection and attend tastings: www.chaisdoeuvre.com

(photo: Emmanuel Fradin)


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The desire to share my knowledge

Me sharing my knowledge

I spend a good deal of my time training people. Between tea tasting sessions, between trips abroad, I invite colleagues or students to join me at my tasting table. For me, it’s important to impart knowledge to my colleagues, and share with them what I’ve been lucky enough to learn on my distant adventures. Tastings are an opportunity for plenty of conversation, about the quality of the teas, and their organoleptic profiles (touch, aromas, flavours). We talk about how the different sensations interact and complement one another. And because I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the places where tea is produced, the discussion moves on to the broader subject of how teas are made, and to the many aspects of the incredible world and culture of tea.


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The three tasting senses

Tea tasting

Three senses come into play when we drink tea and analyse the liquor: taste, which focuses on flavours (sweet, salty, acidic, bitter, umami, etc.), smell – made more effective through retro-nasal olfaction (a technique that consists of exhaling through the nose, bringing more olfactory molecules into the retro-nasal cavity) – and touch, which of course tells us whether the tea is hot or cold, astringent or silky, and other sensations. If we want to describe a tea, it is essential to understand about flavours, olfactory notes and touch. It helps us when we taste together, so we can share our impressions.

 


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Tea tasting is all about the senses

 Tea tasting

When I give a lesson at The Tea School, or when I arrange a tasting for colleagues, one of the first things I do is to ask them a very simple question: once you have put food in your mouth, how many senses are in contact with this food, and which ones? The answers always vary. Now, to taste properly – and this goes for any food – it is essential to understand which senses come into play, and then to build up the appropriate vocabulary.


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Tasting and contemplating

blog-28-08-2015

The advantage of photographing a window is that you can layer two images: here, the tasting set being prepared, and the landscape reflected in the glass. It’s fun to combine and merge the two views. The meaning of the tasting becomes clearer: we drink the tea, which comes from nature, surrounded by the land from which it originated.


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The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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