You know when something is moreish; you go back for another sip or bite or lick.
Well, tea has that special taste property that keeps us keen, and it is called ‘umami’.
Umami is a Japanese word which translates roughly to mean “delicious” or “savouriness” and is used to describe a taste which leaves you wanting more.
The other tastes we can decipher on our palates are sweet, salty, sour and bitter, but umami is elusive and is worth explaining.
Umami was a term used as early as the 13th Century but was not classified properly in the Western world until the early 1900s.
It is a naturally forming combination of substances including monosodium glutamate, otherwise known as MSG, which as we know is a flavour enhancer, and it is found in tea.
Bitterness is the main flavour of tea but this is balanced by the other flavours.
Now, bitterness is something that we don’t usually get in our diet – which is why tea is thought to be an important addition to a healthy, balanced diet.
The taste of bitterness is felt at the back of the tongue.
This is why tea tasters slurp their tea, so it hits the back of their mouth and tongue, giving them the maximum taste experience.
Umami, though, is felt all over the tongue, explaining why one cup is never enough.