"Tea Talk" Glossary

Agony of the leaves:The unfolding of the leaves when boiling water is poured over them.

Aroma:The tea's odor, either of the infused leaf or the steeped result. Example, sometimes a tea's aroma is likened to a flower or fruit.

Astringency:The quality of the tea's liquor that gives a bite or piquancy to the taste.

Bakey:An unpleasant taste caused by firing tea leaves at a temperature that is too high, resulting in the leaves losing too much moisture. Not as bad as "burnt."

Biscuity:A pleasant quality usually associated with Assam teas.Bite:The astringency that imparts a sought-after quality to black teas.Bitter:An unpleasantly biting taste that usually results from oversteeping teas.

Black:A dark, brown-black leaf, characteristic of a fully oxidized leaf.

Blackish:A quality associated with carefully sorted CTC tea leaves.

Bloom:The sheen on black leaf tea, the result of minimal handling during sorting and processing. Unlike with chocolate, tea bloom is desirable.

Body:The viscosity or strength of the liquor, which can be full, light, moderate, and so on.

Brassy:An undesirable tangy or metallic taste, indicating leaves that have not been properly withered during processing.

Bright:A sparkling characteristic of fine teas' liquors.

Brisk:A lively, pleasant trait associated with fine black teas.

Brown:The result of the harsh treatment of CTC teas leaves, resulting in flat, brown looking leaves.

Burnt:The undesirable taste of leaves that have been over-fired during processing.

Character:A positive quality of well harvested leaves, usually grown at altitudes between 4,000 and 7,000 feet.

Chesty:The resinous odor or taste of tea that has been packed in chests made from uncured wood or another inferior material. This sort of packing is becoming obsolete, thus the term is not heard much.

Chunky:An extra-large, broken tea leaf.

Clean:A leaf that is free of extraneous fiber, dust, twigs and other debris.

Coarse:A harsh, unpleasant taste.

Colory:The depth of color and strength of tea.

Common:An indistinctly flavored liquor, usually thin, light and without body and made from poor quality tea leaves.

Complex:The perfect melange of various flavors and aromas coming together to make an appealing tea.

Crepey:The crimped, crepe-like appearance characteristic of OP (orange pekoe) teas.

CTC:A process of cutting, tearing and curling tea leaves, which results in full-bodied teas made from leaves that may not be of the highest quality (but not of low quality, either).Curly:The curling appearance of some whole-leaf teas.

Dry:Tea leaves that are over-fired and dry, but are neither burnt nor bakey.

Dull:A tea leaf lacking in gloss or sheen.

Earthy:A term used to describe a certain, earthy flavor of some teas. This is usually the result of the soil and other growing conditions in a particular tea-growing region, which is not necessarily undesirable, or the result of improper storage in a damp place.

Even:A tea with leaves that are uniform in size and appearance.

Flaky:Can refer to leaves that break and crumble easily, which is undesirable.

Flat:Soft tea lacking in bite and briskness.

Flavor:A highly desirable trait and usually the result of teas grown at altitudes between 4,000 and 7,000 feet.

Fruity:A piquant characteristic of oolongs and other teas.

Full:A good combination of color and strength. May not indicate briskness but does denote a round, smooth mouth-feel.

Gone off:A term to describe tea that has spoiled because of poor storage, bad packing or because it has turned stale.

Grainy:The primary grades of the best CTC teas.

Gray:The color of the leaves caused by too much abrasion during sorting.

Green:Refers to black and oolong teas that are under-oxidized or to leaves plucked from immature bushes. This has nothing to do with green teas, a specific category of tea.

Hard:An especially pungent brew.

Harsh:Unpleasantly rough tasting tea that has not been properly withered.

Heavy:A thick, strong liquor without the accompanying briskness.

Lacking:A liquor without body or other strong characteristics.

Leafy:Teas with large, long leaves.

Light:A leaf of light weight.

Make:Tea that perfectly matches its stated grade.

Malty:An underlying flavor usually associated with Assam tea.

Mature:A tea that is neither flat nor bitter.

Metallic:Tea with a sharp, almost coppery taste.

Muddy:A dull liquor lacking in lightness or brightness.

Muscatel:This is a flavor most often associated with Darjeelings and refers to the flavor of the muscat grapes, which are the grapes used to make muscatel wine.

Neat:A grade of tea with good "make" and well-sized leaves.Nose:The smell of the dry tea leaf.

Ordinaire:A term for a good, standard quality of tea.

Pekoe:The larger of the two leaves on the shoot of a fine plucking. Pekoe or Orange Pekoe is the name for the standard blend of tea sold in the United States.

Peak:The apex of black tea tasting--green and oolong teas do not peak. Peak occurs a few moments after the liquor enters the mouth and the tea's qualities are experienced.

Plain:A tea that is clean tasting but lacks enlivening traits.

Pointy:A liquor with one or more positive characteristics.

Powdery:Fine tea dust and not desirable.

Pungent:A good combination of strength, briskness and brightness.

Quality:The characteristics of a cup of tea.

Ragged:Tea that tastes uneven and looks dull because of poor processing.

Self-drinking:A tea with enough good characteristics such as aroma, body, flavor and color that it can be enjoyed without blending it with other teas.

Smoky:A desirable characteristic of some Chinese teas, especially Lapsang Souchong. When found in other teas, it is undesirable.

Soft:Unremarkable flavor caused by poor firing.

Stale:Faded aroma and "dead" flavor caused by excessive age and the subsequent lack of quality.

Stalk and fiber:Residues of the tea plant that are usually part of low-grade teas, reflecting poor sorting practices.

Stewed:Tea that tastes bitter because it has been steeped too long or because it is made from poorly fired leaves.

Taint:A flavor that invades the tea leaves, usually caused by storing the tea too near food or something else with a strong odor.

Tarry:A desirable smoky flavor caused by smoking tea with wood or charcoal. This is most commonly associated with Lapsang Souchong.

Thick:A richly colored brew.

Thin:A weak colored brew lacking in any strong or desirable characteristics.

Tip:The youngest leaf on the plant growing directly below the bud.

Tippy:A term describing dry leaf tea and indicating high-quality tea in terms of manufacturing.

Toasty:A desirable characteristic of fine Keemuns and other highly fired teas.

Uneven:Leaves with gradations of color.Weedy:Thin black teas; also refers to green teas with a vegetable-like aroma.

Well-twisted:A fully withered leaf that is rolled tightly lengthwise.

Winey:A desirable quality in some teas, particularly Keemum and Darjeeling.

Woody:A synonym for weedy.