The Master Taster

by Hazel Hitchins about a year ago in humanity

Lessons Learnt in the Leaves

The Master Taster

Boil fresh water in a copper kettle. Place precisely 5g of leaves into a lidded white ceramic cup. Add 280 mls of the boiled water and allow to infuse for exactly six minutes. Strain into a bowl.

PG tips. It had to be. Or, heaven forbid, Red Label. Whichever it was, it wasn't a good sign.

Finest Assam blended with a pinch of Ceylon. Warming aroma, sharp colour and full body taste with malty undertones.

It definitely came from a bag though and she knew how he felt about bags. Hadn't he told her how his grandfather keeled over with a coronary when Tetley brought out their first bags for mass consumption back in 1953? How grandmother quipped she'd always warned him tea would be the death of him? Come to think of it, she'd laughed inappropriately too.

Oolong infused with bergamot oil for an Earl Grey variety, with jasmine and lemon for a fresh, slightly floral scent, golden colour and sharp, if slightly sour taste.

What was he supposed to think? He had told her how first woman he'd ever loved broke his heart by serving bagged tea. He'd explained it was evidence of incompatibility, like blending black and green tea. "People don't break up over tea" was all she'd said, like he'd been unreasonable.

Lady grey blended with French lavender giving off a gentle, evocative fragrance, pale hue and delicate flavour that teases the palate.

Was it unreasonable, to want things done in a certain way? Surely it was only logical. After all, he would never dream of using another taster’s spoon so why couldn't she understand why he shuddered when she used one of his handkerchiefs? Why couldn't she put things back in the same place when she'd used them? Or register purchases in the spending diary (He'd noticed yet another new lipstick she hadn't accounted for in the budget last week)?

Oolong, Keemun and lapsang souchong base. Robust aroma, rich, earthy colour and sweet, smoky taste. The addition of cardamom to the blend adds an exotic backnote that stimulates the senses.

Actually, it'd been a while since he'd seen her wearing lipstick. It must be a couple of months, at least. He remembered he’d been working on a Russian caravan blend and the heady aromas had lingered on his palate. She'd just got out of the shower when he arrived home. The residual steam brought out the warm spiced scent of her body lotion.

But those blends were in back in March! That was eight months ago. Eight months! Surely it couldn’t be that long? Was she wearing lipstick then? She wasn't lining the pockets of messers Tetley et al, that's for certain.

Assam, Kenyan and Ceylon mix. Traditional afternoon blend. Darker than usual colour. Over usage of Kenyan leaves has added a sour liquorice tang.

Teabags! She may as well sweep out a pigsty and make a drink from the swill!

Darjeeling with vanilla. Should be a comforting blend with subtle warming flavour with pleasing, light sunflower hue.

But something's amiss. Must be monsoon leaves. Perhaps inferior vanilla pods. Either way, the tea has a chemical, almost noxious taste. No amount of honey can save this.

So why would she do it?

Yunan and Keemun mix. Strong caramel flavour balanced with back notes of pine, plum and an almost orchid-like fragrance. Late buds in the mix leave a bitter aftertaste.


Ceylon tea blended with ginger, cinnamon and black pepper. Balance is missing. There's a confusion of smells and a course riot of flavour on the taste buds. Brings tears to the eyes.

She’s gone, hasn’t she?

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Hazel Hitchins

I love a good story, be it reading them or writing them. If you like my work, feel free to find me on Facebook at Hazel Hitchins author:

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