With the growing popularity of tea tastings, the question often arises what should be used to clean the palate between each tea. I went on a mission to answer this question, and I wanted to share it with you.
With a significant amount of wine tasting under my belt, I felt I had some idea where to begin. So, I took a trip to my local market and purchased two varieties of crackers, two breads, and a lightly salted pretzel snack. I know what you’re thinking… Pretzel, why a pretzel? This was a way for me to see how salt affected the palate when tasting tea. Most artisan breads and crackers have a salty undertone even when fairly bland.
The results were so much more conclusive because I chose to test this way. I can tell you without a doubt that salt has a horrible effect on the palate when tasting teas of any kind. Artisan bread doesn’t work because it is generally made from flour, water, salt, and sometimes a bit of oil. Though the bread itself doesn’t taste salty, it is the only real flavor in the bread, thus rendering it a bad idea. I found the same results with the water cracker and the rice cracker. I can only imagine by now you must be thinking “did anything work?” The saving grace was a traditional French baguette (not sourdough). This worked because there was a small amount of sugar in the bread which canceled out any salt in it.
This conclusion sent me back in search of palate cleansers that had a small amount of sugar without any overwhelming flavors. I purchased organic animal crackers, plain biscotti (no almond), a plain shortbread cookie, and a lemon flavored thin crisp. In addition to these, I also thought I would try some sparkling water and lemon ice (crushed ice with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice). In the end, most of the cookies were too sweet or too buttery; though this did not make the tea have a bad flavor, it was not great for cleansing either. The animal crackers, lemon ice, and sparkling water held some promise.
In conclusion, I would say that the lemon ice was far and away the best cleanser for white and green teas. The ice stuns the taste buds into starting over while the brightness of the lemon enhanced the flavor profiles. Contrarily, the lemon ice is a very bad idea for stronger teas. With your stronger teas, it is best to use the animal crackers or the French baguette followed by a bit of water. This helps rub the palate clean which is needed with the stronger teas. The bubbles in the sparkling water did a spectacular job of cleansing the palate for all the teas but left an aftertaste in the mouth that I wasn’t fond of, though it fades rather quickly.
Next time you choose a palate cleanser keep these in mind. Happy tea tasting!
See more of Janet Sanchez’s articles here.
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