linda villano, serendipitea, tea tasting, tea taster vocabulary, tea glossary, tasting terms, tea
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  The Tea House Times Guest Blog - Linda Villano
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TEA TALK Glossary by Linda Villano

Monday, November 17th 2014 @ 1:28 PM

When tasting tea like a pro, keep the following list of terms in mind but to best remember the experience be sure to use your own descriptors as well. Everyone’s palate & flavor memories differ.

 

Cheers! (Learn more about tea here.)

 

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. Typically, 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 fermented 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 all fine teas' liquors.

Brisk:

A lively, pleasant trait associated with all 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 overfired 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.

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 overfired and dry, but are neither burnt or 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 whose leaves 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 mouthfeel.

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-fermented or to leaves plucked from immature bushes. This has nothing to do with green teas, which are a type 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 during fermentation.

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 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.

 

 



~ Linda Villano, SerendipiTea

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LINDA VILLANO co-founded SerendipiTea.com in 1995 with Tomislav Podreka. With a passion for all things Tea, she oversees all aspects of the business; including client consulting, concept and design, staff training, sourcing and product development (recipe creations). Having grown up in a family of restaurateurs and chefs, she considers her role as a purveyor of premium teas & tisanes a natural continuation of her family’s culinary tradition.   Linda is a published illustrator and writer. Her illustrations appear in Tomislav Podreka’s book, SerendipiTea: a guide to the varieties, origins and rituals of tea, and she writes articles about tea for trade publications.

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