The terminology used to describe tea – both the dry leaves and the liquor - can be complex, so this month I’m sharing the final 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.
TEA TERMINOLOGY: DRY LEAVES
MAKE: A well-made tea that must be true to the particular grade
MIXED/DISTORTED/UNEVEN: Tea leaves of varying color
MUSHY/MUSTY: A tea that has been packed or stored with a high moisture content
NEAT: A grade having good “make” and size
NOSE: The aroma and essence emitted by fresh or dried leaves and brewed tea liquor
OPEN: Opposed to twisted-unrolled
ORTHODOX: Whole leaf tea
POWDERY: A fine light dust
RAGGED: An uneven or poorly manufactured and graded tea
TIP: A sign of fine plucking and apparent in the top grades
TIPPY: Teas with white or golden tips, indicating high quality.
WELL-TWISTED: Often referred to as “well made” or “rolled” and used to describe whole leaf grades
WIRY: The appearance of a well-twisted, thin leaf tea
TEA TERMINOLOGY: THE LIQUOR AND INFUSED TEA LEAVES
MALTY: A subtle sweet barley flavor often characteristic of Assam teas
MATURE: Not bitter or flat
MELLOW: Smooth, easy & pleasant - the opposite of harsh or greenish.
METALLIC: An unfavorable trait used to describe a coppery tang in black tea.
MUDDY: A term to denote a dull, opaque color of the infusion
MUSCAT: A fruity, grapey flavor characteristic of brewed Darjeeling liquor
NOSE: The aroma and essence emitted by brewed tea liquor and fresh or dried leaves
NUTTY: A roasty aroma or flavor suggestive of almonds, cashews, etc.
OFF/GONE OFF: A flat, or otherwise bad tea often due to a high moisture content
PLAIN: A liquor which is “clean” but lacking in the desirable characteristics
POINT: A bright, acidy and penetrating flavor, aroma, liveliness, or briskness
PUNGENT: Astringent with a good combination of briskness, brightness, and strength with a strong and penetrating sensation in the mouth
QUALITY: A combination of the most desirable liquor properties
RAW: A bitter, tart, tangy, rough, super-grassy or overall unpleasant liquor
RICH: A full-bodied tea that finishes with a depth and complexity of flavor and an overall pleasing taste
SELF-DRINKING: A tea that has sufficient aroma, flavor, body and color to stand alone, with no need of blending or condiments
SMOKY/TARRY: An aroma or flavor suggestive of wood smoke, ash, baking, etc.
SMOOTH: A liquor with a rounded taste and body that is pleasant to the palate
SOFT: A term for under-fermented teas
STALE: Tea that has not been stored properly or has too long a shelf life may take on this flat, one-dimensional flavor
STRENGTH: The measure of strong character in terms of color, concentration, body, and pungency
TAINTS: Characteristics or taste which is “foreign” to tea, caused by improper storage
TANGY: An intensely piercing sweet and sour impression along the sides of the tongue
THICK: Liquor with good color and strength
THIN: A light liquor which lacks any desirable characteristics
TOASTY: The pleasant baked or bisquity aroma of a well-fired tea
VEGETAL: A vegetative aroma or flavor suggestive of seaweed, herbs, or grass that is used to describe most green teas.
WEEDY/WOODY: A grass or hay taste associated with teas that have been under withered during manufacture
WISPY: Liquor that is lacking in both strength and depth of color
“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”