Tuesday, November 3, 2015


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.



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




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 re
fuge in him.”
Psalm 34:8

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