Thursday, October 15, 2009

Green Tea Flavor Project - SEAWEED

Fellow tea blogger Jason Walker recently came across an interesting research experiment conducted at the University of Kansas' Sensory Analysis Center. The experiment identified 31 different flavor attributes found in the 138 loose-leaf green teas randomly and blindly cupped by the study's participants. These 31 flavor attributes can be seen in Table 1 of A Lexicon for Flavor Descriptive Analysis of Green Tea (I am currently checking if it is possible to link to this study).

After reading the study results, Jason proposed a collaboration among members of the Association of Tea Bloggers to pick one flavor attribute and then prepare, photograph and evaluate an infusion based on the information in the study. I chose SEAWEED, defined in the article as: "the aromatics associated with shellfish, fresh fish and ocean vegetation." The study referenced a specific brand of "brown seaweed" that I couldn't find so I used kombu (which, along with wakame, is a type of brown seaweed). The study goes on to say: "Use 1 gram of seaweed with 300 mL {I'm assuming boiling} water. Let it sit for 10 minutes."

1 gram of seaweed. Check.

Steep for 1o minutes in 300 mL water. Check.

The resulting brew:

In that last photo it just looks likes plain water but it did have a little bit of a greenish-yellow tint when held in the right light. The taste was not nearly as oceanic as the smell (which could be a little hard to get past) but once the liquor was on my tongue I felt rewarded by its thick, umami mouth feel. It had a wonderful buttery, brothy flavor with notes of minerals and sand.

I have cupped tea with people in the past who identified a light oceanic or fishy taste in some teas while I did not. I imagine that if a green tea I was sipping had such an intense oceanic aroma or taste I would be pretty turned off by it. Tea grows in the mountains and seaweed grows in the ocean... and that's the way it should be! But that buttery, thick, smooth flavor (that I found to be very intense in the seaweed infusion) is one I have noted in several fantastic green teas such as high quality gyokuro tea from Japan and super fresh taiping houkui (太平猴魁) green tea from China. I believe part of this may come from a higher amount of theanine in these types of tea.

In closing, I am glad to have tasted an infusion of seaweed and look forward to reading the other bloggers' posts about their own flavor experiments! I will add the links to the other blogs as they are posted.
10/19/09 Walker Tea Review - Parsley
11/7/09 Tea Pages - Asparagus

And after the experiment... I ate the seaweed. Yum.


Nicole Manha said...

That is so funny! I drank some green tea this morning at school, which should be hint enough about its quality, that after the first sip I thought, "Man this green tea tastes like seaweed!"

Jason Walker said...

I soaked a little seaweed and compared it to tai ping hou kui. I could only detect a faint kelpy-smooth-sweetness to connect them.

I went back through my notes, and found that shizuoka shinchas more often got the seaweed descriptor, even moreso than gyokuro. I wouldn't have noticed that if we hadn't been doing this project.

Thanks for your contribution. My post on parsley comes out on Monday 19 Oct.


megan said...

i JUST learned what 'umami' was the other day. do you watch top chef?
i love how much you love tea :)

Anonymous said...

What an experiment. The umami flavor interests me because I believe the Japanese do green tea right. Getting the oceanic flavors out of the tea that grows rather far inland is, of course, amazing. --Teaternity

Marlena said...

This seaweed taste is the very thing that has turned me off Gyokuro. For some reason, with the exception of lobster, or small amounts of crab and shrimp, I really do not like fish or seafood or seaweed. And I have tried! There have been some other Japanese greens that also have whiffs of this and sadly, they are not for me. Marlena, Tea For Today

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blooming tea said...

Very interesting tea. I gotta try this one, that's for sure.