Taste Tea Like a Sommelier: Sheer’s Guide

Taste Tea Like a Sommelier

Sheer Tea came to market on the premise that the American habit of purchasing cheaply flavored and low-quality tea is going out of style. We believe the market has grown tired of the idea that tea should be flavored with artificial oils and infusions. Instead, we think people have become keen to the fact that great tea exhibits a bouquet of distinct flavors like a fine wine. For that reason, we put together this short guide to encourage the evolving tea connoisseur and sommelier.

The Sommelier

The act of tasting tea involves all five senses. You see the teas and tisanes, you hear them crunch when scooped into a pot and listen to the muffle of the boiling pot bubble, you smell the leaves, feel the liquid touch your lips and tongue, and taste the flavors. But for the avid connoisseur there’s even more.

woman drinks tea see her eyes


To get the most from the world’s variety of teas and herbal blends, the sommelier (you) should try the following short guidelines to pique your senses of smell and taste when sipping on a cup of your favorite brew.

  • When smelling tea, inhale its fragrance through both your mouth and nose, which will help you identify the aromas.
  • Hold tea in your mouth before swallowing and swirl it around to notice its different flavors and textures.
  • Breathe out gently through your nose and try to describe the fragrances and aromas. This will help you remember the tea.


For the true sommelier, tea is smelled in three specific ways: direct olfaction, sniffing, and retronasal olfaction.

The first, direct olfaction, comes through your first contact with tea. It’s the act of simply breathing in the aroma of the dry leaves and blends and the wet leaves floating in water. This sensory input only conveys 10 percent of the scent, however. The next step is sniffing. Try doing it repeatedly and quickly to get a more robust sense of a tea’s aroma. Finally, try using your retronasal olfaction, which is the perception of odors coming from your mouth during drinking. The combination of these three practices in your experience will help you understand up to 100 percent of the scent of a tea.

“To understand the importance of this process, just try blocking your nose when you swallow: retronasal olfaction is prevented and your perception is confined to the four flavors (sour, bitter, sweet, umami) that exist in tea,” write Delmas and Minet, authors of Tea Sommelier.


Tea sommelier smiling

The human sense of taste is composed of five components: sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and savory, which are all present in tea except the flavor saltiness. While bitterness may seem problematic in some foods and drinks, it’s not often the case with tea, which is sometimes expected to have a certain amount of flavorful bitterness. Some teas, like Darjeelings or Assams, might exhibit an acidic taste. Meanwhile, an Oolong or Puerh might have a sense of sweetness that accompany them. Savoriness is often present in Darjeelings or green teas.

With that, I invite you to join us in discovering the world’s greatest teas.


  • https://www.amazon.com/Tea-Sommelier-Step-Step-Guide/dp/0789213125
  • https://www.sciencehistory.org/distillations/magazine/the-science-of-satisfaction
  • https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaotolaryngology/fullarticle/649745