On July 24th, Mood of Living attended Palais des Thés’s tea tasting class, “Introduction to Tea & Tea Tasting,” in SoHo, New York City. Palais des Thés, founded by François-Xavier Delmas in 1986, brings tea sourced from all around the world directly to its customers. Delmas began the company when he traveled through Southeast Asia and developed close relationships with tea farmers – a journey further explored in our own profile on Delmas. He still travels today, forging new connections as he discovers more and more tea gardens to expand Palais des Thés’s signature collection of teas. With 35 stores world-wide, Palais des Thés brings the tea experience to an international audience.
During the tea class, we tasted four different variations of tea: white, green, oolong, and black. We were also educated about the tea refining process, or how a fresh tea leaf transforms into the packaged tea we buy. For Palais des Thés, all of the tea is hand-picked — an astonishing feat for a company so large. The further down the branch the tea leaf is picked, the less caffeination the tea will have. After the tea leaves are picked, they are brought to a shed and left to wither, thus beginning the oxidization process wherein the leaves lose their water and turn black. Different types of tea have different oxidization levels, which is one of the key distinguishing features between different kinds of teas. Once oxidized, the tea is packaged and ready to be bought, steeped, and drunk.
The first tea offered to us was Bai Mu Dan, a white, loose-leaf tea with Chinese origins. With a low oxidization level ranging from 0-10%, Bai Mu Dan is considered one of the least processed of all teas. In our cups, Bai Mu Dan was combined with Silver Needle tea, which is all buds and highly caffeinated. The mixture brings out a light and delicate flavor, with an earthy smell and floral backnote.
After Bai Mu Dan, we tasted Japan’s Sencha Ariake, a summer harvest green tea with around 10-20% oxidization. Japanese green teas differ from Chinese or Korean green teas via the oxidization process. For Japanese green teas, the tea leaves are steamed during the basic oxidization process, which gives them a delicate, umami flavor.
The next tea was Bao Zhong Imperial, a Taiwanese oolong tea – which was our favorite! With a large range in oxidization (30-75%), Bao Zhong Imperial is naturally lower in caffeine and has floral notes with a slight nutty flavor. The leaves, which are twisted when dried, unfurl during the steeping process and truly epitomize the natural roots of Palais des Thés’s teas. Our tea instructor, Cynthia, described this tea as one to be drunk over and over again.
Lastly, we closed the class on an Indian black tea — Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope, named after the famous tea garden “Margaret’s Hope” in India. Fitting with it’s darjeeling attributes, this tea has a nutty beginning with a woody finishing as well as a spicy aroma.
As we concluded the class, we reflected on the crucial elements that define the deceptively simple act of making tea: ensuring both that the steep time is not too long nor too short, and that you don’t drink your tea when it is too hot or too cold. Both of these factors can affect a tea’s profile, changing the way a tea tastes. Contrary to assumption, don’t be afraid to slurp your tea— doing so will allow your palate to get the full range of flavors. And lastly, remember that drinking tea is an experience. It is meant to be shared and to allow you to be consciously present and in the moment.