Glossary

Info mostly sourced from Tea USA

Anhui: A major tea producing province in China. Antioxidant: A compound which slows oxidation.
Aroma: Term used in cupping teas. Assam: A black tea grown in the Northeast India. Tea with a rich robust flavor. Often used in blends because of its strong taste.
Astringent: A liquor which is pungent slightly acidic. Autumnal: Describes the liquor from teas grown in Autumn, in cool weather. Often teas from Northern India.
Basket-fired: Japanese tea that has been cured in baskets by firing or drying. Baggy: Describes an undesirable taint sometimes found in teas withered on inferior hessian or stored in sacks.
Bakey: An unpleasant characteristic noticeable in the liquors of teas which have been subjected to higher than desirable temperatures during processing. Bancha: A Japanese tea made from coarse leaves, usually from the last plucking. This tea is generally consumed domestically.
Bergamot: The Bergamot orange essential oil is used in the creation of Earl Grey tea. Biscuity: A desirable trait usually referring to a well fired Assam.
Bite: A very brisk and “alive” tea liquor. A desirable trait. Black Tea: The most commonly consumed tea in the world accounting for approximately 80% of all consumption. One of three major types of tea. Black teas are the most oxidized or.
Blend: A mixture of teas from several different origins to achieve a certain flavor profile. Most branded teas in the United States use 20 or more origins to achieve their desired taste. Bloom: A term describing the sheen of the tea leaf.
Body: Describes a tea liquor possessing fullness and strength. Bold: Large leaf cut tea.
Brassy: Unpleasant acidic bite from improperly withered tea. Break: Auction term referring to a lot for sale, usually 18 chests or more.
Brick Tea: Tea leaves that have been steamed and compressed into bricks. Pu-erh is a common brick tea. Bright: A lively tea, usually with a red liquor.
Brisk: Describes a live taste as opposed to flat or soft. Broken Orange Pekoe: A size of tea leaf comprising the smaller leaves and tips.
Burnt: A degree worse than bakey. Caddy: The name given to a tin or jar of tea.
Caffeine: A component of tea which stimulates the nervous system. A cup of tea averages 40 milligrams of caffeine versus approximately 110 in a cup of coffee. Camellia sinensis: Botanical name of the tea bush.
Caravan tea: Tea taken by camel from China to Russia before modern transportation. Catechin: The class of polyphenol found in tea.
Ceylon Breakfast: A blend of fine teas grown on the hillsides of Sri Lanka producing a rich golden liquor with superb flavor. Ceylon Tea: The common name of teas grown in Sri Lanka.
Cha: The Chinese word for tea. Chai: A blend of black tea with various spices and steamed milk as commonly drunk in India.
Chanoyu: Japanese tea ceremony or ritual. Chest: Traditional way of packaging bulk teas. Usually made of wood with an aluminum lining.
Chesty: Tea which has been contaminated by improperly seasoned or inferior chest panels. China Oolong: A select blend of large leaf teas from China.
Chop: From the Hindi; means to stamp. A chop of tea means a certain number of chests all carrying the same brand. Chunmee: A grade of curled Chinese tea.
Cloning: Cuttings taken from old tea bushes which are allowed to root and then are planted to produce new tea bushes. Many tea bushes are grown from clones or cuttings taken from older bushes. Common: Describes the liquor of inferior tea having little character.
Congou: A general term for Chinese black tea, derived from gong-fu, defined below. Coppery: Refers to color of the tea liquor, like a new penny. A good trait resulting from good manufacturing processes.
Creaming Down: A high quality tea which turns cloudy generally believed to be caused by the precipitation of tannins. Croppy: Describes a bright, strong creamy liquor with distinctive character. Usually found in some second flush Assams and Dooars of Orthodox manufacture.
Darjeeling: A very high quality black tea grown in the Himalayan Mountains in Northern India. Called the champagne of teas. Dhool: A term describing the coppery, fermenting tea leaf.
Dimbula: A district in Sri Lanka (Ceylon) that produces full bodied black teas. Display Tea: A tea that has a special appearance once steeped, such as flowering teas, or Jasmine Pearls.
Dooar: Tea grown in the Dooar district located in Central India. Dull: Tea liquor which is not clear or bright.
Dust: A term which has been used to describe the smallest particles of tea leaf. Earthy: An unfavorable characteristic generally caused by storing tea under damp conditions.
Earl Grey: A Black Tea blend flavored with Bergamot Oil. English Breakfast: Traditionally a blend of China Keemums. today the blend has evolved to include Ceylon and India teas to produce a full bodied brew.
Estate: A term used to describe a plantation or garden where tea is grown. Fannings: A very small size of tea leaf, although larger than dust.
Fermentation: A term used to describe the processing of Oolong and Black teas. The actual chemical transformation which takes place is actually oxidation. Fibrous: A term used to identify pieces of stem in tea.
Fine: Teas of exceptional quality and flavor. Firing: The process of rapidly heating the tea leaves, with hot air or in a wok, to stop fermentation and dry the leaves for a finished product.
Flat: A term describing teas that lack astringency. Flavour: Very characteristic taste and aroma of fine teas, usually associated with high grown teas.
Flowery: A grading term that indicates leaves with light-colored tips. Flowery Orange Pekoe: A large leaf size containing an abundance of tip.
Flush: The new growth on a tea plant consisting of a full complement of leaves. It takes about 40 days for a new bud to blossom into a flush. Formosa: Tea grown on the island of Taiwan.
Full: A strong tea with good color and no bitterness. Fully-fired: Referring to a taste of the liquor equated with being slightly over fired.
Gaiwan: A traditional Chinese lidded tea drinking vessel with accompanying saucer. Garden: Refers to a plantation or estate where tea is grown.
Genmaicha: Japanese Green tea with toasted rice. Golden Tip: Refers to the orange colored tips present in high quality black tea.
Gone off: Tea which is not good because it is old, mouldy, or otherwise tainted. Gong fu: A Chinese term meaning performed with care; describes a style of brewing that involves many repeated short infusions in a small pot.
Grade: Term used to describe a tea leaf or particle size of leaf. Grainy: Refers to well-made fannings and dust.
Green tea: Tea which undergoes minimal processing and most resembles the original green leaf. Green: Describes an unpleasant astringency which may be due to inadequate withering or fermentation.
Gunpowder: A type of Green tea which has been rolled into pellets. Gyokuro: A prized Japanese Green Tea which is rich to the taste and pleasing to the eye. The tea undergoes special handling at every stage of its growth (shaded) and processing (hand-fired).
Hard: A desirable quality suggesting pungency, particularly applied to Assam teas. Harsh: Refers to a tea which is bitter which could result from picking (plucking) tea before it is ready.
Heavy: A tea which is not brisk and overly strong. Herbal Infusion: Often referred to as “herbal tea” or “herbal tisane”. These teas are blends of herbs and most often do not contain any “tea” leaves.
High tea: A meal served late afternoon to early evening which is a mixture of afternoon tea and dinner. High-fired: A tea that has remained in a dryer for a longer period than necessary, but not considered to be burnt.
Hungry: Describes the liquor of a tea which is lacking in cup quality. Hyson, Young Hys: A Chinese Green Tea named for the East India merchant who first sold it in England. Young Hyson is generally preferred to Hyson.
Iced Tea: Tea brewed and served chilled. I-Chiban Cha: A Japanese term referring to the first flush or first plucking of tea. It is generally a very delicate tasting tea.
Imperial Tea: A rolled Green Tea from Ceylon, China, or India made from older leaves. It has a good aroma and is refreshing. Infusion: The process of extracting elements from tea, herbs, fruits or berries by submersing in boiling water. This process is often used for obtaining medicinal properties from herbs.
Instant Tea: Developed in the 1930’s and commercialized in the 50’s, instant tea sacrifices nuances in fragrance and flavor for convenience. Kenya: A country in Africa that produces fine black teas.
Jasmine: The Chinese use Green Tea as the base to which Jasmine flowers are used to scent the tea. The finest Chinese Jasmine is called Yin Hao and Chun Hao. Formosa Jasmines use Pouchong tea as a base. Pouchong is allowed to wither for a longer period of time (than Green) before it is fired which places it between Green and Oolong. Keemun: A fine grade of Black Tea from China. It has a dark amber color and unique “sappy liquor.
Lapsang Soucho: A fine grade of China Black tea with a distinctive smoky flavor which results from a unique drying process. Tea drinkers either love or hate the taste of this unusual tea. Light: Describes a liquor which is rather thin and lacking depth of color but which may be flavoury or pungent or both.
Lot: Describes all of the teas offered under a single mark or serial number at any tea auction. Malty: A term describing slightly over-fired tea.
Matcha: Powdered green tea from Japan used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Metallic: An undesirable trait which imparts a metallic taste.
Mouldy: An undesirable trait characterized by a mouldy taste and odor resulting from improper storage. Muddy: A term which describes a dull or lifeless liquor.
Muscatel: Describes a characteristic reminiscent of grapes. Also describes an exceptional characteristic found in the liquors of the finest second flush Darjeelings. Mushy: A tea which may have been packed too moist.
Musty; Fusty: A tea liquor in which there is suspicion of mold. New: Describes a tea which has not had adequate time to mellow.
Nilgiri: A district in the hills of southern India that produces excellent black teas. Nose: A term used to connote a good aroma of tea.
Old: Describes liquor from tea which has lost through age those attributes which it possessed originally. Oolong: Partially “fermented” tea which is allowed to wither, then is partially oxidized and dried. The term is of Chinese origins and means Black Dragon.
Orange Pekoe: Is used to identify a large leaf size. The tea is characterized by long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain the white or yellow tip of the leaf bud. Orthodox: Traditional method for picking and processing teas in India without using CTC technology.
Organoleptic: The process used by most tea tasters to evaluate the quality of a tea using all the senses. Pan-fired: A Japanese tea which is steamed and then rolled in iron pans to halt further oxidation.
Pekoe Souchong: A tea which may have been packed too moist. Pekoe: A size of tea leaf characterized by leaves which are shorter and not as wiry as Orange Pekoe. The liquors generally have more color.
Pingsuey: In Chinese, the term means ice water. A Black Tea from the Hangchow district of Zhejiang Province. An excellent mild tasting tea. Plain: Describes teas which are clean and innocuous but lacking character.
Plucking: The process of harvesting and collecting tea leaves. Point; pointy: A most desirable brisk pungent characteristic.
Polyphenols: Astringent compounds found in tea. Pouchong: Some of the finest quality and high priced teas. A very fragrant tea which is also used as a base for making Jasmine Tea.
PU-Er / PU-Erh: Technically classified not as black but dark black tea, the best of which is aged for decades before use. The base may be green tea or black, and its tastes and aromas can range from earthy to elegant. In China it has been customarily drunk with or after meals as a digestif. Pungent: Describes a tea liquor having marked briskness and an astringent effect on the palate without bitterness.
Quality: Describes a preponderance of desirable attributes which are the essential characteristics of a good tea. Rains; rainy: Describes liquor of a dull plain tea manufactured during the rainy season.
Raw: A term describing bitter tea. Red Tea: In its original form, it described a fully fermented / oxidized tea and it was (is) subsequently used to describe both fully fermented and semi-fermented teas.
Rich: A mellow liquor which is abounding in quality and thickness. Rolling: The process where withered leaves are rolled to initiate oxidation and impart twisting in the leaf.
Rooibos: A popular South African tea that shares many of the health properties of Tea, but contains no caffeine. Roughness: A term used to connote harshness.
Russian Caravan: A blend of China Black Teas. Although there is little consistency between available blends in the marketplace. Russian tea: A hot tea poured into a glass over a slice of lemon.
Sappy: Describes a tea liquor which has a full juicy flavor. Scented tea: These are teas which, after processing are put in close proximity with various flowers or spices under controlled temperature and humidity conditions for periods of about 4 hours and then refired.
Self-drinking: Describes an original tea which is palatable in itself and does not necessarily require blending before being consumed by the public. Semi-Fermented tea: Tea that has been partially oxidized before being fired and dried. Most often referred to as Oolong tea.
Sencha: These are teas which Japan exports and comprise about 75% of Japan’s total production. Silver Tip Pekoe: A very costly tea from China made from full-grown buds of a special tea bush. This is also referred to as White Tea.
Silvery Oolong: Another costly tea which utilizes the delicate whitish leaf from the first flush. Single Estate Tea: A tea from one particular estate, plantation, or garden.
Smokey: This term describes an odor or taste of smoke, often caused by a defect in the drier. Soft: A tea which is under fermented or oxidized.
Souchong: Large leaf teas harvested from the third and fourth leaf of the tea plant. Sour: This describes an undesirable acid odor and taste.
Spicy: A liquor having character, suggestive of cinnamon or cloves. This is sometimes, but not always, the effect of contamination. Stalk: Used to describe a tea with visible stalk.
Stand-out: No surprises here. A tea liquor which is above average. Standing up: A tea which holds its original colour and flavor is described in this manner.
Stewed; stewy: Describes certain thick liquoring teas, having undesirable characteristics as a result of incorrect firing. Strength; strong: Describes a liquor with powerful tea characteristics, but not necessarily thick. A very desirable characteristic, but not essential in certain flavoury teas.
Sumatra: Tea grown on the island of Sumatra. Gradings and characteristics are similar to Java teas. Tainted: An undesirable characteristic with a taste and odor foreign to the tea.
Tannin: The chemical component of tea thought to be responsible for its presumed health benefits. One of the major components which contributes to the taste and pungency of tea. Tarry: A tea which has a smokey aroma.
Tea Taster: An expert judge of the beverage. A person who uses organoleptic means to discern various characteristics and qualities of tea. Tea: The leaf and extracted liquor of the shrub Camellia sinensis. No other beverages merit the unqualified term tea.
Theaflavins: Polyphenols unique to fermented black teas, a compound formed from catechins. Theanine: An amino acid unique to tea.
Thick: Describes tea liquor having substance, but not necessarily strength. Thin; weak: Tea liquor which lacks thickness or strength.
Tip: The leaf bud of the Camellia sinensis plant. Tippy: A term describing teas with white or golden tips, indicating high quality.
Tisane: A term which describes an herbal infusion. Toasty: A tea which has been slightly overfired during processing. It may be a desirable characteristic in some Darjeeling teas.
Tuocha: Chinese for bowl tea. A common shape for pu-erh teas. Two and a bud: The ideal plucked tea for production, consisting of the new tea shoot and the first two leaves.
Vintage: Used to describe teas from the same harvest at market. Weak: Teas which have a thin liquor.
Weathery: Describes a soft, unpleasant characteristic, which is occasionally evident in the liquors of teas processed during very wet weather. Well twisted: A tea leaf which is tightly rolled or twisted, indicative of good withering.
White Tea: There should be no withering, fermentation (oxidation) or rolling of the buds. Winey: A term describing aged, mellow teas, as with some Keemun teas.
Withering: The first step in production of most teas. Involves letting the fresh leaves wither for some period of time after plucking to reduce moisture content. Wiry: Another term which means well twisted.
Woody: A characteristic reminiscent of freshly-cut timber. This trait is usually associated with teas processed very late in the season. Yixing: Pronounced Yee-shing, a region in China known for its purple clay, and the unglazed teapots produced from it.
Yunnan: A province in southwestern China.