Taiwanese experts took the challenge of creating a technique that allows to recognize the taste characteristics of tea without the participation of tea tasters. The prerequisites for such work are as follows. During regular and numerous tea competitions in Taiwan, tea experts have to taste hundreds of teas — and there is no way to provide absolutely identical conditions for tasting different samples.
Assuming that tea does not directly affect human taste buds, but through interacting with saliva, Taiwanese experts have developed a solution that partially imitates this saliva. When mixed with tea, brewed in accordance with the standards of the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station (for oolong tea — 3 grams of tea per 150 ml of boiling reverse-osmosis water, 6 minute infusion), this imitation solution forms a film, whose thickness allows to assess the astringency of tea.
having gathered a team of five Station specialists and five enthusiasts, the researchers conducted a calibration tasting of four oolongs made from Chin-shin oolong cultivar, grown in different gardens of Central Taiwan at different altitudes. Then they ran the same teas through their system for the astringency recognition. And the comparative evaluation of the astringency of oolongs, obtained after their analysis by a cunning Taiwanese method, coincided with a comparative assessment of the astringency given by the tasters.
The authors of the methodology, being satisfied with the results at large, note the shortcomings of the developed system. They note the insufficiently accurate imitation of saliva with the solution they use and, as a consequence, the insufficiently accurate work of the entire system. Comparing the results of the new method with the estimates of live tasters, it can be noted, in particular, that estimates of the more astringent teas given by the system and people coincide more than the estimates of less astringent teas.
Scientists themselves expect that after some time they will be able to improve the technique and create a special commercial powder or tablet which could be mixed with tea in order to evaluate relative astringency of the tea samples without tasting them.
Well, and we, I hope, will still live to see formal flavor profiles of the world’s main tea. And the most advanced tea connoisseurs of tea will be satisfied with simple reading of the characteristics: “Tartness — 19. Sweetness — 43. Oh! It’s so good!”