What is the difference between Wine Tasting and Tea Tasting and are they the same but just different liquids?

This is a question I get asked a huge amount and people are really interested if my pallate can discern differences in different beverages. Essentially we taste with our nose and not necessarily our mouths. This may seem counter intuitive as we don't drink with our nose and it's our mouth that drinks the liquid!

Our nose is one of the most important assets we have when it comes to tasting food or drink and it's one that is highly effective in discerning aromas and tastes. Our mouth only has 5-6 different abilities to differentiate taste. It detects sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, acidity and the newly discovered umami or marmite flavour. The nose however has access to a vast selection of memories which are stored in the poowehouse of the mind in a huge filing cabinet called aromas.

These aromas often evoke emotion and can trigger memories in the same way that music can. Think of how powerful freshly brewed coffee can make you feel and how delightful fresh cut flowers are to a house and also how long the smell of a curry can last in your kitchen!

The poor nose suffers when we have a cold though and all we can really appreciate are very strong flavours such as curry.

This is because we taste with a number of senses before any liquid even hits our lips.

Our eyes and sight are often the first sense used with tasting, swiftly followed by the sense of touch as we hold a glass or cup in our hands. If the wine looks murky or the tea is dirty in colour and consistency then our sight will tell us there is an issue.

Our nose then kicks in, often without us knowing or realising. It's our amazing nose and it's superb ability to recall aromas we like or dislike that often tells us if we will like a wine or tea or not. For example I detest sprouts, was force fed them by my parents who falsely believed I needed the devils food in my diet. This has resulted in a deeply held hatred of this little green vegetable and the very smell of a cooked sprout leave me cold and nauseous.

However the smell of blackberries is one I love as I have great memories of scavanging when I was a child and also when I needed a pick me up in training runs or races and I stopped to pick a few blackberries. Now whenever I smell this dark little fruit's aromas I am transported back to those times and I know I will enjoy the drink that has this smell.

I recently had an amazing cup of Tropical Green Tea which blew my mind as it has all the tropical flavours and aromas of a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc but instead of being a crisp cold glass of wine it was a hot, steaming cup of amazing Green Tea, brimming with antioxidants.

Of course not many drinks smell of sprouts but you get the idea I hope.

Once our nose has swiftly detected the mixture of smells then it prepares our sense of taste for the next important part of tasting. Do we actually like what we are about to drink. If we have never smelt a particular aroma then our mind will place it into a storage file for sorting later once we have drunk the liquid and made an informed decision.

So the next time you are juding a drink and whether you like it or not, just think of all the processes you have had to go through in your bodies detective skills.