Wednesday, March 4, 2015


The terminology used to describe tea – both the dry leaves and the liquor - can be complex, so over this year I thought I would share a few definitions to help in understanding some of the phrases used in the tea culture.  More information and a full glossary of tea terms is available at the Tea Association of the USA.



BAGGY: an undesirable taint sometimes found in teas withered on inferior hessian or stored in unlined burlap sacks when the scent and flavor transfer to the leaves

BLEND: a mixture of two or more varieties, rather than one “pure” tea which might be from different regions or a mixture of tea leaves with other ingredients, including herbs, spices, and flavorings

BLOOM: a term that describes the sheen of the tea leaf and is a sign of good manufacturing and sorting

BOLD: a large leaf cut tea with particles which are too large for the particular grade

BROKEN: a leaf tea with smaller or broken pieces of leaves created by passing the leaf through a cutter

CHESTY: a taint in tea caused by an odor or taste absorbed from the wood of an inferior or unseasoned storage chest

CHUNKY: a very large broken leaf tea that results from orthodox manufacture

CREPEY: a crimped appearance from orthodox manufacture common with larger grades of broken leaf tea

CTC: an acronym for Crush, Tear, and Curl, a method of tea processing resulting in broken leaves that impart a stronger infusion

CURLY: the leaf appearance of whole leaf grade orthodox teas which is the opposite of wiry




AGONY OF THE LEAVES: the unfurling of the tea leaves during steeping in hot water

AROMA: fragrance or scent, also known as the nose, of the brewed leaf and the resulting liquor which are released when tea leaves are steeped in a hot liquid.  It is an essential companion of taste

ASTRIGENCY: a drying sensation of the mouth and on the tongue caused by tannins in the tea, which gives a tea briskness and pungency yet refreshing characteristic

AUTUMNAL: a term used to describe the earthy, fuller flavors characteristic of fall tea crops grown in cool weather

BAKEY: an unpleasant burnt taste from over-fired teas which are cured at too high a temperature and have had too much moisture removed

BISCUITY: a toasty, pleasant baked aroma, reminiscent of cookies or baked goods, of a well-fired tea

BITTER: an unpleasant, sharp taste or strong sensation noticeable at the back of the tongue that often comes from steeping a tea for too long or too hot

BODY: a term to denote a full strength brew with the feeling or sensation of heaviness, fullness and strength of the liquor on the tongue – also called “mouth feel.”  A tea may have thin, medium, or full body

BRASSY: a strong, unpleasant acidic, somewhat metallic taste from teas that have been under withered

BRIGHT: a characteristic associated with fresh and vibrant quality and good color, generally a signature characteristic of quality tea

BRISK: a lively taste in the liquor as opposed to flat or soft which is a characteristic often found in good quality, well-manufactured tea

CHARACTER: intrinsic traits of the tea flavor and aroma linking a tea to its country, region, district, or estate of origin

CHOCOLATY: a roasty, sweet aroma suggestive of unsweetened chocolate

CLEAN: a fresh quality of a tea that finishes smooth in the mouth and has nothing unfavorable about it

COMMON: a very plain inferior tea having little character with no distinct flavor

COMPLEX: a term that describes integration of aromatic and flavor components in finer-quality teas, referring to a tea’s display of multi-dimensional layers of sensation

COPPERY: a term describing a reddish infusion like a new penny, which indicates a well manufactured, high quality tea



Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes re
fuge in him.”
Psalm 34:8

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