Wednesday, July 8, 2015


The terminology used to describe tea – both the dry leaves and the liquor - can be complex, so this month I’m sharing a few more definitions to help in understanding some of the phrases used in the tea culture (If you missed the previous post here’s the link - Tea Terms A-C).  More information and a full glossary of tea terms is available at the Tea Association of the USA.

DEGRADATION: When tea leaves begin to break and change color, going grey instead of black
DULL: A tea leaf lacking in gloss or sheen
DUST: The smallest and usually lower quality grade of tea commonly used in commercial teabags
EVEN: A tea whose leaves are uniform in size and appearance and are true to their grade
FANNINGS: A tiny leaf or bits and pieces usually left from processing and commonly found in commercial tea bags
FIBER: Shreds of stalk found in dry leaves-indicating bad particles
FLAKY: Flat open pieces of leaf often light in texture
GOLDEN: Desirable golden colored tip of the smallest, most tender leaves in high quality black tea
GRADES: The category indicating the tealeaf size and the preparation style
GREY: Caused by too much abrasion during sorting
GRAINY: Describes primary grades of well-made CTC teas
IRREGULAR: Uneven pieces of leaf in whole-leaf grades resulting from inadequate or poor sorting.
LEAFY: A tea which tends to have leaves on the large or longish size
LIGHT: A tea light in weight and of poor density, also referred to as flaky
LOOSE LEAF: A broad term used to describe any tea that is not in a tea bag. Most orthodox and hand rolled teas are offered as loose leaf.
LOW GROWN: Tea grown at a lower altitude, typically at 2000 feet or below, which impacts taste, fragrance and color
DARK: A dark or dull color, which indicates a poor quality leaf
DELICATE: A soft subtle restrained flavor and aroma
DRY: Indicates slight over-firing
DULL: Tea with a muddy liquor that lacks brightness or briskness
EARTHY: Describes teas with pleasant aromas or flavors of moist soil or earth.  May also describe the unpleasant taste of teas stored in a damp environment
FINE: A quality tea in terms of astringency, flavor, aroma, and overall positive characteristics
FINISH: A measure of the taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the tea is tasted
FLAVOR: The desirable taste or notes of character, which may vary from nutty to flowery and more.
FLAT: Off or stale taste, deficient in astringency and briskness
FLOWERY: An aroma suggestive of flowers
FRESH: A positive trait used to describe newly processed teas with vibrant flavor and aroma.
FRUITY: A sweet aroma or flavor suggestive of fruit associated with good oolongs and certain Keemun teas.  Can also be an over ripe taste due to over-oxidation or bacterial infection before firing
FULL: A good combination of strength and color and little briskness
GRASSY: A somewhat herbaceous aroma or flavor often associated with greens and some oolongs
GREEN: An immature “raw” character, often due to under-fermentation and/or under-withering
HARD: A very pungent liquor
HARSH: A negative characteristic describing a bitter, unpleasant, or offensive taste or sensation generally related to under-withered leaves
HAY: A stalky aroma or flavor suggestive of wet hay or straw
HEAVY: A thick, strong and deep-colored liquor with limited briskness. Similar attributes to full-bodied tea, but taken to excess
HERBACEOUS: An herbal aroma or flavor suggestive of herbs, leaves, or plants.
HIGH-FIRED: Over-fired but not bakey or burnt.
LIGHT: A very mild tasting tea, little strength in terms of color, body, and aroma
LIQUOR: The brewed tea liquid that remains when leaves are removed after steeping
LIVELY: Pleasingly vibrant in astringency and briskness.
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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