Sensory Wheels for the Main Styles of Taiwanese Tea

Experts from TRES (the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station) and Ming Chuan University have developed sensory wheels for the main styles of Taiwanese tea. Namely for Taiwanese green tea, Wen Shan Bao Zhong, high mountain light oolongs, Tie Guanyin, Dong Ding, red oolongs, Oriental Beauty and Taiwanese black teas. Red oolongs are hemispherical, heavy-roast oolongs. Tie Guanyin, Dong Ding, and red oolongs were packed into one wheel, so the Taiwanese specialists had six wheels for eight styles. You can find the downloadable high-resolution images of the six wheels on the TRES website.

The sensory wheels were developed by a team of 25 experts. It included specialists involved in tea manufacturing and assessment and who, for example, had experience in judging tea competitions. The experts sampled about 500 teas that participated in the Taiwanese tea competitions in 2019 and 2020. There were more than 60 Oriental Beauties alone — lucky them! Teas were brewed with boiling water at the rate of 150 ml per 3 grams of tea leaves. The infusion time was different for different teas and ranged from 4 minutes (for red oolongs) to 6 minutes (for high mountain light oolongs, TG and DD). While preparing the sensory wheels, the experts, of course, based their decisions not only on the impressions received immediately during the tasting, they also relied on the experience already accumulated by TRES in describing the taste and aroma of tea.

Taiwanese Black Tea and Taiwanese Green Tea Sensory Wheels. TRES

The new sensory wheels include separate Taste and Aroma sections. The Taste block is divided into basic tastes (sweet, bitter, sour, salty, umami) and mouthfeel. This block is identical for all wheels. At the same time, the Aroma block is divided into several aroma groups and is unique for each wheel. In addition, each wheel contains infusion color options for the intended group of teas.

The main purpose of the new wheels is an independent evaluation of the tea, by both professionals and consumers. In addition, the sensory wheels are, in fact, a stylistic thesaurus for the main groups of Taiwanese tea — so they can become a tool for effective professional communication. They can also be used for educational purposes — for a preliminary acquaintance with the main styles of Taiwanese tea, for example.

It should be noted that the result obtained by Taiwanese specialists — six different sensory wheels for evaluating only the main tea styles of one not the largest tea region — once again confirms the obvious tea truth: a universal tea sensory thesaurus suitable for describing and evaluating all existing teas is not possible. At the same time, it is advisable and, of course, highly desirable to develop sensory thesauri of the same structure (at least in the form of wheels similar to Taiwanese ones) for the main styles of tea presented on the modern tea market. In combination with modern information technologies, such a complex of sensory vocabularies can be a very effective professional tool with high promotional functionality.

Olga Nikandrova & Denis Shumakov. 2021