Sunday, June 13, 2010

What is Tea Tasting?

Wine tasting is a popular party, social or other get-together idea, but not everyone can take part. Some have physical issues with alcohol and others don't want to drink for a variety of reasons. Fortunately, there are alternatives. 

There are many ways you can do this. The leaves of the tea tree come in many varieties, and even among these varieties there are flavor variations. It would be easy to develop a range of flavors from mild to very robust. These variations are almost endless and it may take many such gatherings to taste them all.

There is another idea that has occurred to me. Herbal teas may also make good tasting party themes. Bear in mind that while the phrase herbal tea is commonly accepted, it is not exactly the right term. You may find yourself using a variety of methods to prepare the teas, but that can make the idea more interesting.

If you choose to use herbs, you will have to select the ones you use very carefully. Some have major interactions or can cause problems for medical conditions. It might also be wise to have a list of possible problem teas ready for your guests. That will allow them a way to safely choose which to taste without having to explain the various problems to all and sundry.

The best place to start with herbal teas is the GRAS list. The acronym stands for "generally regarded as safe." These herbs have the least amount of interactions, which will help protect your guests. A sampling of these include allspice, bergamot, chamomile, cinnamon, ginger, hibiscus, lavender, lemon balm, licorice and the various mints. You may have to be careful with the cinnamon and the licorice, as they can cause problems, especially for diabetics or those with high blood pressure.

When planning your party, you may want to consider food, especially those that can cleanse the palate. The best choice may be sliced apples, as it should not interfere with the ability to taste the delicate flavors of the milder herbs. Crackers and very mild cheeses may also be helpful.

A question that comes up every now and again is that of adding other things to the tea cup. I suggest that this is a personal choice, so you could benefit by having some of the expected companions ready. Sugar, cream and milk may be useful if you are tasting from the tea tree. For the herbal teas, you may want to add honey and stevia.

You may be able to boost the enjoyment of your guests with a subtle use of essential oils. These won't be for consumption, rather to scent the room. Lavender and chamomile are good choices as they are gently soothing. Peppermint may be helpful, but the scent may be too strong.

A tea tasting may be the very thing to meet your neighbors, for a church get together or just to have a bunch of friends over for a pleasant afternoon. It is less likely to cause problems, as alcohol is not involved and the teas mentioned usually do not impair driving.

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