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Just mentioning a “tea evaluation template” implies that analytical evaluation, a conceptual breakdown, is a positive thing – so let’s start there.  I think that tea experience works just as well without translating experiential aspects into a list of concepts, or probably even better skipping that.  But evaluation could serve a few different purposes: For a vendor to keep track of detailed tea impressions, for purchasing reasons, communication, or for a tea enthusiast to track progress and history in working through exploring tea types and versions.

Of course writing a blog about tea experience involves use of concepts, and even in video raw experience doesn’t come across much without use of supporting concepts. I’ll need to settle on a level of analysis here, to not keep jumping back and forth between placing experience versus just having it, or how useful this would be.  So I’ll move onto discussing an approach soon enough, since this is headed towards describing a template for categories and notes that I made up.

Setting that aside, I’ve considered and written about evaluation and rating themes before, quite early into writing about tea.  Five years ago this week, also published to T Ching – it’s about time for an update.  This reconsideration relates to discussing this with a vendor who is evaluating teas (more or less): The same context cited in that post.  Two of the more interesting vendor reference-source related citations in that post seem to relate to businesses that aren’t active now, based on web pages being offline.  Maybe the approach didn’t really help them.

A graphical tea tasting wheel

Used with permission from Temple Mountain Tea, with more on tasting wheels here.

Breaking experience into parts and rating the parts and the whole then seems like one obvious approach; “scoring” body / feel, aftertaste, taste / flavor, flaws, match to a standard type, quality evaluation…  One of those cited sources (now missing in detailed form, since the links aren’t active) used a half-dozen such weighted categories to get to a final tea score.  An opposite approach would be to try to map out aspects instead – to make the project about ending with a flavor / aroma list, mouthfeel description, and such.  Doing both might be possible – detailed description and also rating.

The “final score” idea is problematic, because different teas are positive, negative, or just limited in different ways.  It might work better to map that out per tea type; e.g., to value a Wuyi Yancha oolong version in relation to a weighted set of factors, and black teas or young sheng pu’er differently, related to differently weighted sets.  Then one pronounced flaw or unusual strength really could throw off that evaluation, making a tea very desirable or all-but undrinkable based on just one aspect input, limitation, or flaw.  Sweetness being all-but missing can really throw off a balance in a lot of styles, for example.

The record-template-based approach I drafted (available here) works to collect notes into categories, without really being geared towards a combined and weighted score (although that would be easy to add, tweaking the form to include a couple more final evaluation rows and a weighting system and summary).  Let’s skip past tea type details and preparation documentation–which are in that form–and consider a tasting notes section:

 Feel, aftertaste, taste




Body / feel




Aftertaste (length, type)
















Sourness (note if positive, negative, or neutral)




Intensity (also for aroma)




So far a bit straightforward, just a lot to include in one short set of notes for many of these.  Some people value those first two categories (line-items) so much that a few words of notes wouldn’t really do that justice.  

The idea of including rankings and separate description and notes aren’t clearly required, or a best approach, it’s just one way of arranging that.  As I see it, splitting a summary and then second-level additions about that summary might make sense (e.g., describing form and level of sweetness in a “description,” then placing that in relation to how it balances with the rest in a “note”). Skipping putting a ranking / score for most noted sections would work: The form doesn’t clearly imply how it is intended to be used, and use could vary.

Tasting details (aroma)








Fruit (/ dried fruit)
















Sweetness / nut / dairy




Wood / hay / grain / malt




Roast effect / char








This puts a lot of work onto a taster to split out an overall evaluation in this breakdown form, and it’s a given that no two people would fill out this section in the same way for any tea.  All the same it’s a decent starting point for arranging aroma / scent based flavor range into categories.  For most typical reviews saying a bit about basic tastes (the first section) then settling on a half dozen aroma inputs is enough.  

In my blog post reviews I tend to rank them, mostly in terms of what comes across as dominant and then in relation to more vague or transitory aspects.  Evaluating form of transition comes up for Gongfu brewing, and this table wouldn’t capture a cycle so easily (aroma range changing over rounds). But the “notes” could be used to cover that (e.g., cinnamon only in later steeps).  That form would also work for noting that bitterness declines following a certain pattern in the last subset.  For a reviewer inclined to write a lot about transitions, as in Mattcha’s blog, this category and list form just wouldn’t work well.

Flaws / limitations








Storage input (negative)




Contaminant (eg. smoke)




Off standard type range




Atypical feel








There are a lot of potential flaws, with this only intended to map out some standard categories.  Per two different evaluation preferences this could be expanded and developed, or it could be narrowed down to just one line item instead.

Overall evaluation




Match to standard type




Most notable attribute(s)




Quality marker related




Most notable limitation(s)




Quality Level




Aging input (level, type)




Aging potential (estimate)




Subjective preference match








Again, I’m not really going to explain or justify a lot of this. Inclusions like “match to a standard type” or “quality marker related” would be best explained by a few hundred words of write-up.  I probably mean those in my own way, and others would see those concepts differently or would prefer not to use them at all.  There isn’t really one standard type for any given tea version, since they all vary within a stylistic range, but it is possible to assess if a version falls outside a typical stylistic range.  I see certain aspects as identifying quality level in some cases (eg. mineral flavor in Wuyi Yancha or sheng pu’er, smooth and full feel in some rolled oolongs, aftertaste length in some types but not others).

Hopefully the meaning of “quality level” and “subjective preference match” are clear.  Those are intended as a judgment about objective overall rating of the tea – surely partly in relation to match to type, and the same thing but in a subjective form: How much one likes a version.

The idea here was to start a discussion about such a tool and approach, but in practice writing anything about tea experience doesn’t typically lead there.  I’ll add this early template draft version in the group I moderate (International Tea Talk) and in my blog-related Facebook page to make it accessible, but I don’t expect that much discussion.  If you want to pass on input there will be links to this post in both places, or I can be reached through that blog page.

For strictly personal use I think it makes more sense to just drink the tea, and to stay on the opposite extreme in relation to breaking down the experience conceptually.  The old Steepster-form approach of adding a few thoughts (aspects that stand out) and a short summary works, to the extent one ever would need to discuss a tea.  Writing a 1500-word round-by-round blog review of a tea is definitely overkill; so messy, and too long to read.  Copying that Steepster summary form to an Instagram post seems to strike a better balance. But really who even needs that, unless it works as an actionable purchase recommendation or the author is using it as their own organized notes.  Which reminds me – I didn’t initially add price information to this.  Other inclusions like that would depend on the intended use.