The 2017 Chinese Porcelain Exhibition of the Tea Institute at Penn State

Stéphane Erler has two great articles he recently published on the Tea Institute at Penn State. The first details all of the past Chinese tea exhibitions and shows how much they have grown and changed.

The second article is about the first day of this years exhibition on Chinese Porcelain. It was an amazing event, and the Institute is so thankful that Teaparker and Stéphane keep coming back to teach these esoteric topics.

The Jason M Cohen Asian Art Gallery at Penn State University

I am overjoyed to have been honored by the Tea Institute at Penn State as they announce our new new art gallery in the Chinese Tea House.

The one day I don't wear a suit....

The gallery came about because of the work of he leadership after me, particularly the 2nd Executive Director, Ryan Ahn, and the 3rd Executive Director, Zongjun Li. The two of them raised funds for the renovation of the Chinese Tea House, and included the installation of an art gallery in the new design.

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Better Beer Through AI – Podcast

This is old news at this point,
but I got interviewed back in February by the NVIDA AI Podcast on the work we’re doing at Analytical Flavor Systems.

I talk a lot about how our AI platform is now integrated deeply into new product development, and how we’re helping companies make a greater variety of niche products, which are more competitive products, which makes better products for everyone.

Give it a listen here:

Life and Work Status Update

Dear Readers,

It has been quite some time since I’ve written to you personally. As I’ve written about in the past, a small team and I have been diligently working on a startup company, Analytical Flavor Systems. I’d like to update you on how things are going and what we’re working on through the rest of this post.



Analytical Flavor Systems (AFS) has built a narrow-band artificial intelligence (AI) to quantify and predict what individuals, demographics, and populations will taste in food and beverage products. The AI is linked to the production process, allowing end-to-end optimizations in flavor profile consistency and consumer hedonic perception from raw ingredients to finished product along every step in its creation.

We (currently) work with beer, coffee, and spirits producers. We’ve also developed applications for chocolate and tea.



AFS has recently raised a new round of venture capital, and we have moved our headquarters to Manhattan, New York City. John, Emily, and Ryan, all Tea Institute Alumni, are based with me at our new headquarters.

Living in NYC has been a dream come true, with the exception taken for the lake of tea and tea education… I might have to do something about that.



For AFS, please reach out if you have an interest in the intersection of food technology, data science, and artificial intelligence for beverage manufacturing, own a beverage company, or just want to grab coffee with a founder in NYC.

For tea, I’d like to gauge interest in starting a new tea group in the city. It would be amazing to start teaching again, with a new group of tea lovers.



I am very lucky to have been this successful in my endeavors thus far; overjoyed at the continued success of the Tea Institute, and working hard to ensure the success of Analytical Flavor Systems for our clients, investors, and employees.

Luck, as they say, is 99% preparation and 1% opportunity.  I hope to do a better job of writing down what I learn and discover about tea, and to create more opportunity through connections fostered on this blog.


– Jason

Microbial Colonies of Pu’er Tea – new research

I’ve been talking / teaching / writing about the importance of the origin and cultivation of the microbial colonies within Pu’er tea for years,as they’re responsible for everything from “aging” rate to flavor profiles. (Reminder: all tea ages at the same rate of 1 year per year)

Yet, outside of the Institute, I’ve gotten some pushback;
including some crazy counter arguments like  pu’er is never actually fermented, or that there is no effect on colony strains from the factory / plantation / forest, or that the steaming process kills of the microbial colonies during compression (it doesn’t).


This new paper (June 2016) does a good job of showing just how important the microbiological colonies and inoculations are in determining arability, flavor profile, and quality of Shou Pu’er.

The Microbiome and Metabolites in Fermented Pu-erh Tea as Revealed by High-Throughput Sequencing and Quantitative Multiplex Metabolite Analysis



Pu-erh is a tea produced in Yunnan, China by microbial fermentation of fresh Camellia sinensis leaves by two processes, the traditional raw fermentation and the faster, ripened fermentation. We characterized fungal and bacterial communities in leaves and both Pu-erhs by high-throughput, rDNA-amplicon sequencing and we characterized the profile of bioactive extrolite mycotoxins in Pu-erh teas by quantitative liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. We identified 390 fungal and 629 bacterial OTUs from leaves and both Pu-erhs.
Major findings are: 1) fungal diversity drops and bacterial diversity rises due to raw or ripened fermentation, 2) fungal and bacterial community composition changes significantly between fresh leaves and both raw and ripened Pu-erh, 3) aging causes significant changes in the microbial community of raw, but not ripened, Pu-erh, and, 4) ripened and well-aged raw Pu-erh have similar microbial communities that are distinct from those of young, raw Ph-erh tea.

Twenty-five toxic metabolites, mainly of fungal origin, were detected, with patulin and asperglaucide dominating and at levels supporting the Chinese custom of discarding the first preparation of Pu-erh and using the wet tea to then brew a pot for consumption.