A recent blog post by Seth Roberts (professor of psychology at Tsinghua University in Beijing) brought to mind one of our favorite ways to taste and learn about tea at TeaLula. What he describes as the "Willat effect" describes the changes in preferences that occur when comparing several similar items in a category side-by-side and suddenly noticing minor differences that may have not been apparent had the items been sampled at random times over a longer period. Using the example of green tea, Roberts notes that by brewing three different teas every morning rather than his usual one pot and comparing them that "After a decade of drinking tea, my practices suddenly changed. I will buy different teas and brew them differently...I have become far more interested in green tea, partly because each cup tastes better, partly because I am curious if more expensive varieties taste better."
Though there may be some use in comparing drastically different things at once, say a pot of stout black tea against a grassy green tea against a floral tisane, if only to acquire a general sense of what your preferences are (and to get your toes wet, as it were) the real education is going to happen when you do a focused tasting. During TeaLula's construction the idea of having a tasting bar was in some sense an option to allow customers to sample any tea we sell before they committed to taking a whole bag of it home, but in a larger way, it ideally functions as one of the most effective means to truly build an appreciation of what specialty tea is all about. While some may have such an attuned sense of taste that they are able to reflect on a wonderful pot of tea they had five years prior at The Savoy in London and seek those same flavors out as time goes on, for most of us we simply find ourselves content to enjoy whatever it is we are used to and been consuming of late.
The decision to become a connoisseur might strike most as something a little too fussy to set as a goal, but in a simple sense it is merely something that can tend to occur along the way as one decides to explore and learn about a whole genre of what is out there; and in the case of tea there certainly is a lot out there to learn about. What better way to start than to come by TeaLula, find a place at the tasting bar and start sampling not only teas that you haven't tried yet, but different variations and quality levels of teas you already know you love!