Liquor taster embodies spirit of her craft

【Drink】Time:2023-03-21      Source:China Daily      Views:168

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The taster discusses baijiu with an industry colleague.

He Kaiping, who has dedicated years to tasting baijiu, is a delegate from Guizhou to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, report Chen Meiling and Yang Jun in Guiyang.

Early in the morning, He Kaiping and her colleagues sit in a room, each facing several glasses of white liquor, or baijiu, for them to observe, smell and taste, before writing comments on a score sheet.

For He, 38, deputy director of the blending and storage center of Guizhou-based liquor producer Xijiu, it's an essential procedure to guarantee good quality before the products are sold to customers.

"Each sample needs at least five tasters to evaluate," she says. "The process includes both sensory judgment and physical and chemical analysis. After it meets all standards, we can call it qualified baijiu."

During the peak time of production, from February to September, she tasted more than 100 glasses of baijiu a day until her tongue became numb and her head dizzy.

However, before taking the job, the nationally certificated top-level liquor taster never drank alcohol.

In 2008, He was recruited as a laboratory technician by the company after getting a master's degree in biotechnology. One day, she met with some white liquor tasters and was impressed by the elegance in their posture. She then spent three years teaching herself about liquor tasting, sometimes until late into the night after putting her newborn child to sleep. In 2011, she was transferred to the new post as a taster.

In her first year, she would get upset because her results were often totally different from others. She also found it difficult to connect professional terms with abstract fragrance, or to describe her feelings precisely. Later, she learned to link the smell of baijiu with that of food or plants in daily life.

"Besides a keen sense of taste and smell, a good taster also needs extensive practice and experience to be able to quickly tell the subtle differences in baijiu and keep the memory of the taste firmly in mind, so as to ensure the product's consistency," she says.

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He Kaiping and one of her students check base liquor in the cellar of Guizhou-based producer Xijiu.

As any physical abnormalities may influence evaluation results, she has to maintain a stable physical state. To do that, she refuses all spicy or excitant food, and forgoes perfume and cosmetics.

"I used to have long hair that I would dye from time to time, but for something I love more, I'm willing to change," says He, who also maintains a strict diet to sustain the elegant image of a liquor taster. "Liquor tasting is not excessive drinking. The job doesn't harm my body. Instead, it helps me develop a healthy lifestyle."

Over the past decade, she has received many awards because of her skill and hard work, including the May 1 Labor Medal in Guizhou. She has also been named a national baijiu assessor, a national technical expert in the baijiu industry and worked as a judge of baijiu blending in Guizhou.

In the eyes of her colleagues, He is the "most patient" person. In 2021, she participated in a general survey of 40,000 metric tons of base liquor, to evaluate its quality and separate it into different types, in order to offer information for product design.

"Tasting a glass of baijiu is like opening a blind box, which helps me remain curious about the unknown," says He. "Liquor tasters bridge the gap between consumers and the liquor producers. For the company, our work is to ensure product quality; and for consumers, we aim to provide a good drinking experience."

The tasting expert is also a delegate to the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. She says she will take the voices of grassroots workers to the congress and bring back its ideas, do a better job, as well as pass down her skills and the artisan spirit.

Xi Dezhou, 30, one of her colleagues, says that He is professional and responsible for her post. "She works diligently and conscientiously, and is a role model for us," he says, adding that she is also very outgoing and always works with a smile.


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