Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Refining My Personal Enjoyment Scale for Tea: An Important Update

In the recent past, I have been reflecting upon my "personal enjoyment scale," which was once meant as a comparison basis for teas. However, there are a few issues with this, which have become more and more obvious in recent times and through recent tea reviews. Here are a few thought points:

  • I have lost part of my handle on the personal enjoyment scale. That is, what defines (using that word loosely) my enjoyment now may be different than a year ago or five years ago.
  • The ratings make teas that are unrelated seem relevant to each other. I have never rated a tea 100/100, nor 99/100, and why not? What elusive element am I searching for that would bring the rating so high? One tea is rated 98/100. A number have 97/100 ratings, but how does one compare elements of enjoyment across teas (or tisanes) as diverse as the following (all rated 97/100):
    • Tea Ave's Ti Kwan Yin oolong
    • Crimson Lotus Tea's 2012 Nannuo Shan shou pu'erh
    • Loose Leaf Spot's Glass Slipper herbal blend
    • DavidsTea's Peanut Butter Cup fruit infusion
  • What good do my #/100 reviews do for you as the reader? Ultimately, these reviews are here for you to see my thoughts, but if those are unclear/ambiguous then the benefit drops immensely.
In contemplating the revision of my scale, I thought through a few options. I could get rid of the scale entirely, though I personally like having some sort of quick reference for good-or-not (to me). I could use an established tea rating scale, but I am not a trained tea sommelier and do not have the authority for such. The scale could be revised to be a number from 10 instead of 100, yet how much difference would that actually make? It seems that more simplicity accompanied by greater definition is needed, while still keeping things personal. After all, these are my experiences. This lead me to the simplicity of a 1-5 scale. Defining each point, even vaguely, was more difficult.

The Important Part: The New Personal Enjoyment Scale
  1. I really disliked this tea. While I may have finished the cup (as I rarely dump tea that I have prepared), the experience was not at all good to me (whether due to taste, smell, etc.). I would actually recommend against anyone drinking it. 
  2. This tea was not great in my opinion. Maybe it had potential and then fell flat. Maybe it tasted "off" somehow. Maybe it was the tea embodiment of mediocrity. 
  3. My experience with this tea was okay. I would drink it again, if it was an option, but I will not seek-out more for my collection. 
  4. I really enjoyed this tea. I will be sad when the amount that I have is gone, and I may or may not buy more. I would highly recommend it.
  5. This tea was an absolute joy to drink. Likely, it is a tea that I will buy over and over again, so that I always have some. 
Yes, the scale is skewed more toward the positive. That said, I feel that rating teas and tisanes a 1 or a 5 will be rare. While I have tried more teas that I might deem a 5 than I have teas that would qualify for a 1, the number of teas that I would deem a 5 is a small fraction of those that would warrant a rating of 4. 

Starting with next week's review, I will use this new 1-5 scale. I do want to emphasize that the scale is not the focus of the review itself; it is the experience around which things center. The scale is merely a classification of sorts. For that reason, I will not be instituting any way to sort by rating. Rather, each rating should be considered as standing alone between me and the cup I just steeped. A tea that is given a great rating may not be the most expensive or the best quality of its kind, yet it may have given me an amazing experience in the drinking. 

If you have any thoughts on this new system, I would be interested to hear them! Please feel free to leave me a comment on this post or reach out to me via the contact link.


  1. I think this is a great improvement! Are you going to go back and retroactively apply or add the new scale to old reviews?

    1. At this time, I do not plan to do so. However, I may do so in the future, just for reference, or as I drink again things I have reviewed in the past.

  2. Good choice Spencer! This seems like a much better scale than the x/100 :)

    1. Thanks, Harry! Thus far, it has been working better for me, too, and I hope is better for my readers!