Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Acquiring Tastes for Tea, especially Oolongs

I am somewhat fascinated by the idea of acquired tastes. An overwhelming majority of my favorite food and drink is made up of things that I did not enjoy the first time I tried them. I used to be a very picky eater. Now I am eager to try all sorts of crazy new foods, vegetables, herbs, spices, and new combinations...I'm always seeking new flavors, and I'm often eager to keep trying something that has a strange aroma that I don't enjoy at first.

Teas that I thought had an "Acquired Taste":

The biggest teas here are mid-oxidized oolongs. I've noticed this most with Amber oolongs from Taiwan, and moderately oxidized / moderately roasted Tie Guan Yin or Se Chung oolongs. These teas all have in common that they tend to have woody qualities in the aroma, and they also retain some of the vegetal and herbaceous tones of their greener counterparts, yet these qualities have little in common with the vegetal qualities of green tea. Some teas in these categories grew on me as I drank them, and I also found that I have come to appreciate the overall style of amber oolongs and mid-roasted, mid-oxidized oolongs more over time, in contrast to the darker oolong, which I have always liked, and the greener oolongs, which I hadn't tried until more recently but was able to appreciate more readily.

I've found this effect to be even more pronounced in the greener Darjeeling oolongs, which, from my experience, tend to have a strong vegetal aroma. Two that come to mind are Arya Topaz, which I actually disliked upon drinking the first cup. It is not a favorite of mine, but I have enjoyed subsequent cups more more--even brewing them the exact same way. My favorite Darjeeling oolong, Soureni organic oolong from Fresh Darjeeling Tea, I actually liked upon drinking the first cup--but I also found that this tea grew on me. I went back and inched the ratings up on these teas over time, as I drank subsequent cups.

I've also experience this phenomenon with other teas, including a few black teas and a few green teas, but it's not as strong as with these oolongs.

Have any of you acquired tastes for types of tea you didn't enjoy upon the first cup?


  1. Assam, strangely enough, was really something I had to make myself get used to.
    I enjoy the lighter flavors in tea so Assam and African teas were a stretch.

  2. I can understand this...I grew up in a family that liked strong black teas though, so I was more accustomed to these, but I imagine they might be less accessible to people who weren't used to them.

    Then again...plenty of people drink black coffee, which often seems (to me) much harsher than a typical Assam. But I like black coffee too so I can't really say.