The Mouthfeel of Tea

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The brain plays a major role in interpreting and describing mouthfeel and flavor.

Mouthfeel is defined as the texture of a substance as it is perceived by the mouth. It is funny to think about how something feels in your mouth, but it is actually a very important part of how your brain decides rather or not you like a particular food or beverage. We spend a lot of time focused on smell and taste and often overlook mouthfeel until a particular food or beverage does not feel the way we expect it too.

Tea has a mouthfeel that is created by the polyphenals reacting with our saliva and the mucus membrane on our tongues. This means that different teas have different mouthfeels.

Describing the Mouthfeel of Tea

Below are the three most common mouthfeels used to describe tea that do not reference the temperature of the tea itself.

  1. Astringent or Drying. Some people use the term brisk to describe this sensation as well. Astringency is the ability of the substance to leave the tongue and roof of the mouth feeling dry after  swallowing. If you pay close attention, you may notice that only certain parts of your tongue and roof of your mouth give that sensation. English Breakfast is usually the least astringent, followed by Scottish Breakfast and then Irish Breakfast. Assam black tea is what makes Irish Breakfast the most drying.
  2. Creamy. You do not need milk to drink a creamy tea. Oolongs, like Oriental Beauty, and certain green teas, like Dragon Well, have creamy textures. The tea leaves the sensation of remaining on your tongue after you swallow, just like milk. It general reacts the same way on all parts of your tongue, which makes the tongue feel coated in tea.
  3. Full bodied. This one is a little tricky. Body refers to a thick, sticky consistency. A full bodied tea is not going to feel the same on the mouth as a full bodied beer or wine. The most common example of full bodied tea is Lapsang Souchong, but this pine-smoked tea is not drunk by everyone. Another example is Malty Assam Black.

So the next time you sit down with your favorite cup, think about how it feels in your mouth. It may surprise you!

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