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Getting nosy with tea

When I first began seriously pursuing tea, one thing odd that I had to learn was to stick my nose into the infused leaves. I had grown up amidst tea gardens of Darjeeling, and drank tea all my life, but until I entered the tasting room of a tea garden professionally 10 years ago, I never had thought of participating in the ritual of tea physically with my nose.

cup of tea

However, the oddity and the awkwardness of having a few leaves cling to the nose tip, was removed when I immediately realized, upon the act of “taking a nose,” that it did indeed open up a rich dimension. Various nuances that are normally hard to pinpoint in the liquor stand out vividly in the infused leaves. It was a revelation! For example citrusy notes leap from tea that comes from Mirik Valley of Darjeeling, where orange fields abound; traces of orchid line the tea from middle elevation gardens, while hay notes filter through in tea from lower down. You can feel the “burn” of a summer afternoon or the “cool” hours of the morning, and intuit when the tea was plucked. I have “smelled” the sweet spring waters found in the high ridges of the Senchel Forest Reserve - the water-catchment that irrigates a big swathe of Darjeeling tea growing region - and in some, inhaled the viscous notes of lemongrass and mugwort that abound in Organic tea gardens.

tea leaves
Some of these scents are so exquisite that you wish you could bottle it up like perfume. While professional tea tasters must take a “nose”, normal tea drinkers forgo - as I used to - the sniffing of the infused leaves. But I urge you to include it in your tea ritual. I think to not enjoy the “nose” is a painful waste of the leaves. Now inhale deeply all the beauty that the earth offers in the form of tea.
smelling tea leaves
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