Tea Taster's Glossary


Aroma: The odor of the tea liquor (and the infused leaf); also called nose or fragrance. It may be lacking, faint, medium, full, expansive, flowery. A complex aroma is often described as a bouquet. The character and quality of flavory teas is partly aroma.

Astringency: See pungent.

Baky: An undesirable flavor characteristic of black teas from which too much moisture has been driven off during firing. Not as strong as burnt.

Biscuity: A descriptive term sometimes applied to the aroma of well-fired Assam tea.

Bite: See pungent.

Bitter: An unpleasant acrid taste arising from several causes.

Black Currant: The aroma and flavor of some fine Darjeelings are sometimes described as reminiscent of black currants.

Body: The tactile sensation of weight and substance of the liquor experienced in the mouth. The impression of viscosity is not due solely to the amount of soluble solids, but is accentuated by flavor and pungency. Body may be described as thin, medium, full, and son. In black teas, full body denotes a strong, thick, concentrated infusion.

Brassy: Undesirable flavor tang in black teas caused by under withering.

Bright: Characteristic of all fine teas. Bright teas have liquors with a lively, limpid, or sparkling appearance. Usually an indication of good quality, as opposed to dull-looking liquors. Also a taste description.

Brisk: The opposite of flat. Related to but not merely a pungency quality, it is described as a "live" character found in the taste of good black teas. It is not related to age.

Burnt: A smell and taste of burnt organic matter due to excessive firing temperature.

Character: Loosely, the general quality of a tea. More specifically, the quality of aroma and flavor that can be associated with country, region, district, or even garden of origin.

Chocolaty: A term used to describe the flavor of certain fine Darjeelings, a slightly toasty flavor similar to that of some Keemuns.

Clean: Usually used to describe dry leaf free of dust, fiber, and stalk, but also often applied to thin, plain tea liquor of no other distinction than that of being free of Undesirable taste characteristics.

Coarse: A liquor lacking aroma and often with Undesirable taste qualities as well, due to irregular firings or poor leaf.

Color: Color varies with tea type and origin, but should be bright, limpid, or deep, as opposed to stewy and dull. A black tea with a concentrated red liquor is sometimes described as colory.

Complex: Characteristic of very fine teas whose nose and taste give the impression of a subtle melange of flavors.

Common: Untainted but nonetheless poor-quality teas yielding plain, dull liquors.

Cream: A milky film that forms as certain black teas (particularly Assam) cool. Usually indicates some briskness and strength though not necessarily flavor.

Delicate: subtle as opposed to assertive, intense, or penetrating aromas and flavors. A delicate tea may possess considerable complexity, however.

Dull: Opposite of bright. Muddy, brownish color and appearance in the liquor arising from poor manufacture or poor leaf. Not an encouraging sign.

Earthy: a dank flavor taint due to damp storage conditions.

Fine: Term of praise; usually synonymous with flavory.

Flashy: Often a very recently picked self-drinking tea that is exceptionally alive in the cup. This character is ephemeral and sometimes develops into a rounder, more mellow quality with age.

Flat:A soft, rather tasteless tea lacking briskness, strength, and pungency.

Flavor: (a) Used to describe fine quality indicated by the presence of a sweetish or honey like aroma-taste complex- a bouquet that can be tasted as well as sniffed. Such a tea is described as flavory. (b) Specifically, certain flavor nuances found in the taste of the liquor - almonds, toffee, and so forth.

Flowery: Characteristic of the fragrant aroma of many fine teas; often used in describing high-grown Ceylons and South Indians.

Fresh: sometimes confused with green. Usually refers to recently manufactured teas and those teas and those teas that have not been on the shelf so long they have become stale.

Fruity: A flavor taint due to bacterial infection; however, a piquant fruity quality is characteristic of oolong.

Full: Used to describe liquors of black tea with strength but with little briskness. Full teas are not bitter, but ripe, round, smooth.

Gone off: Tainted or moldy tea that has been spoiled by improper storage or packing. Also applied to out-of-condition teas that are merely to old, but this state is more precisely termed stale.

Green: As applied to black teas, a raw bitter taste due to under fermentation. It is not related to actual a raw, bitter taste due under fermentation. It is not related to actual age.

Hard: Used to describe a black-tea liquor with great pungency and bitterness; a raw, rasping, or harsh quality related to greenness.

Hay: A flavor characteristic found in certain teas at certain seasons; a woody, grassy, or stalky flavor. Undesirable in black teas, not always desirable in oolongs and greens.

Heavy: Thick, strong, colory black-tea liquors with little briskness.

High-grown: Most, but not all fine teas are from high elevations, but in districts where quality is related to altitude, the aroma is more expansive and the flavor is more intense.

Intense: Usually applied to flavor and taste to indicate a concentrated, penetrating quality.

Light: Not to be confused with delicate. A light tea lacks body and aroma; related to thin.

Malty: A character associated with, and a desirable quality of, Assam teas.

Mature: Used to describe fully fermented black teas. Not related to actual age.

Mellow: The desirable qualities a black tea may take on with a certain amount of age. Few teas develop with age.

Metallic: An undesirable coppery tang found in some black teas.

Muscat: Common description of the aroma and flavor of some fine Darjeelings.

New: Term used to describe recently picked and processed tea.

Plain: Characteristic of the liquor of light or thin tea.

Point: A tea has point if it has some desirable quality, such as liveliness, briskness, or fine fragrance.

Pungent: An astringent puckery sensation given to the gums; it is a quality of the liquor and not a flavor. Also called bite. Pungency gives tea its refreshing quality; excessive pungency gives tea its refreshing quality; excessive pungency gives tea a bitter, harsh, rough character.

Rich: Sometimes said of a full, mature tea, but it suggests an opulence of flavor as well.

Sappy: Full, juicy liquor; brisk.

Self-drinking: Said of a tea that possesses all the requisites of quality and thus does not need blending. Self-drinking teas can come from a variety of origins.

Smoky: A desirable characteristic fragrance and flavor of some China teas, especially Lapsang Souchong, which varies from faint to strong. Also found in other teas due to faulty manufacture.

Stale: A tea that has lost most of its quality through excessive age. Stale teas have faded aromas and a characteristic dead, papery taste.

Strength: Thick, concentrated liquors with pungency. In black teas, also colory and creamy.

Sweet: A light, pleasant tea of no great character or quality.

Tainted: A tea with strange foreign aromas and flavors, usually because of molds or storage with odiforous substances.

Tarry: Pronounced, heavy smoky aroma and taste, as in Lapsang Souchong.

Thin: A weak, dilute tea, usually because of poor leaf.

Toasty: A term sometimes used to describe the of fine Keemun, occasional Darjeelings, and sometimes other highly fired teas.

Vegetative: Green teas often have distinct vegetative aromas and flavors, from new-mown hay to seaweed to delicately herbaceous.

Winy: A fine Darjeeling or Keemun properly kept six months to a year or more may take on a mellow, winy character.


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