Tea Terminology

Tea Terminology

Agony of the leaves: expression describing the unfurling of rolled or twisted leaves during steeping
Anhui: one of the major black tea producing regions in China
Aroma: fragran flavor of brewed leaf, consisting of the essential oils of tea
Assam: Tea grown in the state of Assam, in India. These (generally black) teas are known for their strong, deep red infusions.
Astringency: the drying sensation in the mouth caused by teas high in unoxidized polyphenols.
Autumnal: tea produced late in the growing season
Bakey: tea taster expression for overfired teas
Bergamot: essential oil of the bergamot orange used to flavor a black tea base to make Earl Grey tea
Billy: Australian term referring to tin pot with wire handle to suspend over an open fire in which tea is boiled
Biscuity: tea taster's expression, often used with Assam teas that have been fired well but not overly so
Black: the most common form of tea worldwide. prepared from green tea leaves which have been allowed to oxidize, or ferment, to form a reddish brew.
Blend: mixture of teas, usually to promote consistency between growing seasons
Bloom: tea taster's term to describe sheen or lustre present to finished leaf
Body: tea taster's term to denote a full strength brew
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. Tea is typically shaved and boiled with butter and salt to make a soup
Bright: denotes a bright red brew or light leaf, as opposed to a dull brown or black color.
Brisk: a tea high in astringency. Also a trademarked characteristic of Lipton tea.
Broken: smaller leaf style usually created during manufacture by passing the leaf through a cutter
Caffeine: stimulating compound present in tea
Cambric tea: a very weak tea infusion in an excess of milk and sugar
Catechins: class of polyphenol present in high concentrations in green tea, but found in varying levels in other teas derived from the teaplant
Ceylon: Teas made in Sri Lanka
Cha: tea. Romanized spelling of Chinese and Japanese character referring to tea.
Chai: tea. Often refers to masala chai, or spiced tea, a strong black tea infused with milk, sugar, and spices.
Chest: classical tea package, usually made of wood and aluminum-lines, used to ship tea from plantation
Chesty: tea taster's term signifying off odor in tea from the wood in the tea chest
Chunmee: a grade of Chinese tea with a curled shape.
Congou: a general name for Chinese black tea, derived from gongfu.
Coppery: bright infusion of good quality black tea
CTC: stands for Crush, Tear, and Curl, a machine-based process which macerates the leaves by pressing through counter-rotating rollers to create a stronger, more coloury tea.
Darjeeling: Tea grown in the Darjeeling region, a mountainous area around the Himalayas, of India. These (generally black) teas are well known for their crisp astringency.
Dhool: refers to the tea leaf during fermentation, noted for its coppery color.
Dust: the smallest grade of tea, this is typically associated with lower quality, but is prized for its quick extraction and is commonly used in teabags.
Earl grey: Black tea that is scented with the essential oil of bergamot, a citrus.
Fannings: small, grainy particles of leaf sifted out of better grade teas
Fermentation: used in the process of preparing black and oolong tea, this step involves allowing the natural browning enzymes present in tea leaf to oxidize fresh green tea leaves and to impart the darker brown-red color and characteristic aroma.
Fibrous: Teas which contain a large percentage of fannings
Firing: the process of rapidly heating the leaf, either with hot air or in a wok, to quickly halt fermentation and dry the leaf to its final product.
Flat: Teas lacking astringency or briskness
Flowery: used in grading the size of tea, it typically indicates a leaf style with more of the lighter colored tips.
Flush: the freshly-picked tea leaves, typically comprising the bud and first two leaves of the growing tea shoot.
Formosa: tea produced in Taiwan, typically oolong teas
Full: strong tea without bitterness and posessing good color
Genmaicha: green tea with toasted rice
Golden: denoting the orange colored tip present in high quality black tea
Gong fu: meaning performed with care, this typically refers to a style of brewing with many repeated short infusions.
Gongfu: meaning performed with care, this typically refers to a style of brewing with many repeated short infusions of leaf in a miniature pot.
Grainy: Term used to describe high quality CTC teas
Green: unfermented, dried tea, more commonly found in China and Japan.
Gunpowder: a green tea which is rolled into pellets which unfurl in hot water.
Gyokuro: Japanese green tea produced from shaded plants. "Pearl Dew"
Hard: pungent tea, desired in some Assam teas
Harsh: bitter teas
Heavy: a thick, colory infusion with little briskness or astringency
Hyson: chinese green teas. Brand of tea in common usage during 18th century. "flourishing spring".
Jasmine: black tea scented with jasmine flowers, typically made with green Pouchong tea as the base
Keemun: black tea from central China, typically hand rolled and fired.
Lapsang souchong: A Chinese black tea which is fired (dried) over a smoky (pine wood) fire to impart its characteristic smoky flavor.
Light: liquor lacking body or thickness
Malty: slightly over-fired tea, sometimes desirable
Metallic: tea taster's term to denote coppery taste of some teas
Muddy: tea taster's term to denote a dull, blackish color of the infusion
Nose: the aroma of the tea
Oolong: A form of tea characterized by lighter brews and larger leaf styles. This tea is typically understood as a lightly fermented tea, between green and black tea on a continuum.
Orange pekoe: Referring to size of leaf, not quality or flavor, this term indicates a larger-size grade of whole leaf teas.
Orthodox: prepared using a technique which leads to larger leaf styles mirroring hand-produced teas.
Pan fired: tea that is steamed and then agitated in an iron wok over a fire
Pekoe: derived from baihao, the white hairs of the new buds on the tea shrub, this term currently refers to the smaller-size grade of whole leaf teas.
Plain: tea taster's term to denote dull liquor with sour taste
Plucking: the process of harvesting the tea by cutting the flush from the growing tea shrub.
Polyphenols: astringent compounds present in tea
Puerh: a type of tea most notably from the Yunnan province of China. Damp green tea that has been fermented microbiologically to a black leaf.
Pungent: tea taster's term to denote a very astringent tea
Rawness: bitter taste
Rolling: the process of crushing the leaves to initiate fermentation and impart twist.
Self drinking: rounded, well bodied tea that can be served unblended
Smoky: tea taster's term for teas that have been fired over smoky flames, imparting a smoky flavor
Soft: tea taster's term for underfermented teas
Souchong: Term for large leaf teas derived from the third and fourth leaf of the tea shoot
Stalk: describes teas with presence of red stalk pieces from a hard plucking
Tannin: erroneous term referring to the astringent polyphenols of tea, unrelated to tannic acid polyphenols of other plants
Tarry: tea taster's term for teas that have been fired over smoky flames, imparting a smoky flavor
Tat: shelf made of wire mesh or burlap used to spread the leaves out for withering and fermentation
Theaflavins: orange red potyphenols unique to fermented teas such as black tea, and formed from the condensation of two catechins
Theanine: unique amino acid in tea.
Theine: synonym for caffeine
Ti kuan yin: "Iron Goddessof Mercy"- a distinctive type of oolong tea typically longer-fermented and possessing a darker-colored but fragrant brew
Tippy: Teas with white or golden tips, indicating high quality
Tisane: Teas produced from the leaves of plants other than the tea plant, herbal tea.
Tuocha: bowl tea. A form of brick tea comprised of pu-erh tea pressed into a bowl shaped cake.
Twist: Before fermentation, the leaves need to be crushed to initiate oxidation. This imparts the curled appearance of the finished leaf.
Two leaves and a bud: the ideal plucked tea for production, consisting of the new tea shoot and the first two leaves
White: a special type of green tea. Distinguished by the presence of the white hairs of the tea flush (baihao) and a lighter green, almost clear, infusion.
Winey: mellow quality, characteristic of some Keemun teas which have been given time to age
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.
Woody: tea taster's term indicating an undesirable grass or hay flavor in black tea
Yixing: pronounced ee-hsing, this region in China is noted for its purple clay, used to produce distinctive unglazed teapots.
Yunnan: Tea grown in the Yunnan province, in the southwest of China. These black teas are known for their spicy character. This region also produces Pu-Erh tea.


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