Tea Terms  in Grading and Tea Tasting

Many times in life we hear some words, which are related to tea, feels more like  coming from an alien planet. Most of these tea terms, which a tea expert frequently uses, is to describe the tea cup or the quality or variety of the tea . So if we put some efforts to learn some of the commonly used tea terms, does not seem to be a not so bad idea!

Tea Terms on leaves Grading:

  • Broken grade: Brokens are exactly what they literally mean, just opposite of the whole leaves. It may or may not be the result of a CTC operation. Flavor and aroma are the hallmarks of broken teas.
  • Broken Orange Pekoe: It is the grade of black tea that is comprised of coarser leaves. We can find it both in orthodox and CTC teas, which comes with almost no tips. When the tea is plenty of tips or buds, then we call the tea tippy.tea terms - a pot with steaming hot tea
  • Choppy: The term means that the sample contains leaves that are of multiple sizes.
  • Dusts: It is smallest grained tea grade. Because of the bigger surface area the grains offer, dusts brew faster and release the aroma quicker. As a result it is the most preferred along with the little larger sized fannings grade for tea bags.
Few more tea terms to represent the tea leaves..
  • Fannings: The smaller sized grains of tea (1 to 1.5 millimeters) that are sifted out of higher grade of teas. Fannings can produce a brew that is as good as that of a whole leaf grade.
  • Flowery Orange Pekoe: It is the orthodox whole leaf or broken leaf grade black tea with a lot of tips which gives it a premium tag.
  • Orange Pekoe: It comprises of buds and a few tender leaves adjacent to the bud. It is a black tea comprising of tea grains of just below one cm to one and a half cm length. The commonly used word ‘orange’ has nothing to do with the color or flavor of the brew.
  • Pekoe: The commonly used word pekoe means ‘white hair’ in Chinese. It is the second leaf after the bud and indicates whole leaf grade of tea mostly made up of the particular leaf.
  • Souchong: The fourth and fifth leaf after the bud which are coarser and less aromatic.
  • Whole leaf: As the name suggests, it consists of full sized tea leaves. Obviously, we find the tea more appealing visually and hence it commands better price.

Tea Terms to Describe the Cup:

  • Aroma: It describes a most important character inherent in a liquor like smell or ‘nose’ of the cup.
  • Astringency: Not bitter yet a lively, clean and refreshing quality accompanied with a mouth drying effect on the tongue, caused by a reaction between the protein in saliva and the tannins in tea.
  • Bakey: An over fired tea, which is too dry.
  • Biscuity: A pleasant character, which experts commonly use to describe a well fired Assam.
  • Bite: A desirable character trait which the experts use to describe a brisk and alive tea.
  • Bitter: A raw taste that is mostly unpleasant and undesirable.
  • Brassy: A term which is often used to describe a strong, bitter, metallic taste of the liquor.
  • Body: Weight and substance, strength and fullness as felt when the tea is in the mouth. Also tactile aspect of tea that can be expressed in categories like wispy, light, medium, or full. Sometimes called ‘mouth feel’.
  • Bouquet: A complex aroma which comes with a superlative flavor.
  • Bright: Refreshingly clean and lively with good keeping quality, of course not dull. Having depth of colour and strength.
  • Brisk: Neither flat nor soft. The most desirable and live characteristic in a liquor. Only possible from quality made tea.
  • Burnt: Off color and flavor resulting from overcooking; undesirable quality.
Some more interesting terms with clean yet colory characters!
  • Character: Distinctive signature attributes of tea that tells about its origin.
  • Clean: Without any off-taste yet lacking in character.
  • Coarse: Liquor with a rough unwanted tastes like bitter or too acidic; a result of improper processing, inclusion of too much coarse leaves.
  • Colory: With good depth of color.
  • Common: An ordinary, plain, light liquor without any distinct flavor.
  • Complex: A desirable character that describes the multi-dimensional layers in a fine quality tea. An account of how the aromatic compounds are integrated.
  • Coppery: Opposed to dull, a bright, well-made tea.
  • Cream: A natural precipitate accumulated with cooling down of the liquor.
  • Creaming Down: A good liquor turning cloudy as a result of precipitating tannins.
  • Croppy: A distinctively strong bright and creamy liquor; common to fine second flush Assams and Dooars whole leaf orthodox.
  • Dull: Tea liquor lacking in clearness or brightness.

tea terms- a girl enjoyng a cup of tea

  • Earthy: An undesired character; a taste resulting from damp storage, resembling flavor of soil or earth
More words to describe the tea cup…
  • Finish: The taste remaining on the tongue after swallowing the tea.
  • Flat: A stale taste, a character which is not desirable.
  • Flavour: Synonymous with aroma and taste, which is a must have character of fine teas. You may commonly see in high grown teas.
  • Flush: A new growth with unopened bud or full complement of leaves ready for plucking. Also synonymous with tea harvesting seasons.
  • Fruity: A ripe taste induced as a result of over-oxidization before firing. A desirable character of good oolongs.
  • Full-bodied: A liquor combined with good strength and color.
  • Full: A well-made tea with substance, strength and roundness and no bitterness.
  • Grassy: A flavor found in some green and oolong teas resembling a hay-like raw flavor.
  • Green: A raw tea character commonly occurs as a result of either insufficient withering or under-oxidation or both.
  • Hard: A pungent characteristic mostly applicable and desirable to a cup of Assam.
  • Harsh: A bitter rough taste generally occurs either due to under-withered leaves or picking tea that is not ready.
  • Heavy: An overly strong, thick tea lacking in briskness.
Hungry yet lightly metallic! Find what they mean for a cup of tea..
  • High fired: An over-dried tea, but not burnt.
  • Hungry: A cup which is lacking in quality.
  • Light: Lacking in strength and color; also called wispy.
  • Metallic: A liquor which has sharp copper-like flavor.
  • Malty: A sweet malt flavor, perhaps a distinctive characteristic of Assam black.
  • Muddy: A liquor which is both unclear and dull.
  • Muscatel: A grape-like exceptionally brilliant characteristic which is the hallmark of the finest Darjeeling.
  • Pungent: A characteristic trait found mostly in best quality in both Assam and Ceylon. And is characterized by astringency, which is properly mixed with strength, briskness and brightness.
  • Smooth: Balanced and fine tasting teas.
  • Soft: An under oxidized tea which is smooth yet less bright in flavor.
  • Smokey: A liquor with taste of smoke, which it may acquire due to a drier-defect during processing.
  • Sour: An acidic taste or smell, which you won’t desire in a tea.
  • Spicy: A character reminiscent of cinnamon or cloves in a liquor that is not necessarily is caused by contamination.
  • Self-Drinking: A complete tea self-sufficient in body, flavor, aroma, color and flavor. It does neither need blending nor addition of any condiments for an enhanced experience.
  • Thick: Lacking in strength, though have some substance.
  • Toasty: A little over-dried tea, which for some Darjeelings, considered a plus.
  • Vegetal: A characteristic flavor of green tea which can be marine, grassy or herb like.
  • Woody: A characteristic found in late season teas which reminds of the smell of freshly-cut timber.