Tea Vocabulary

Terms used to describe Dry Leaf :

Black: A black appearance is desirable.

Blackish: A satisfactory appearance.

Bold: Particles of leaf which are too large for the particular grade.

Brown: A brown appearance in teas that normally indicates overly harsh treatment of the leaf.

Clean: Leaf that is free from fibre, dust and all extraneous matter.

Curly: The leaf appearance of whole leaf grade teas such as O.P., as distinct from “wiry”.

Even: True to the grade, consisting of pieces of leaf of fairly even size.

Flaky: Flat, open and often light in texture.

Gray: Caused by too much abrasion during sorting.

Grainy: Describes primary grades of well-made CTC teas such as Pekoe Dust.

Leafy: A tea in which leaves tend to be on the large or long side.

Musty: A tea affected by mildew.

Neat: A grade having good “make” and size.

Powdery: Fine light dust.

Ragged: An uneven, badly manufactured and graded tea.

Stalk & Fibre: Should be minimal in superior grades, but is generally unavoidable in lower-grade teas.

Shotty: well-made Gunpowder or Pekoe. Bold in appearance, curly.Shotty: well-made Gunpowder or Pekoe. Bold in appearance, curly.Tip: A sign of fine plucking, apparent in top grades of orthodox “Low Grown Type Teas”.

Uneven & Mixed: “Uneven” pieces of leaf usually indicative of poor sorting and not true to the particular grade.

Well Twisted: Used for describing whole-leaf grades, often referred to as “well-made” or “rolled”. OP, OP1 grades.

Wiry: Leaf appearance of a well-twisted, thin-leaf tea. OP, OP1grades.


Terms used to describe Infused Leaf :

Bright: A lively bright appearance. Usually indicates bright liquors.

Coppery: Bright leaf that indicates a well-manufactured tea.

Dull: Lacks brightness and usually denotes poor tea. Can be due to faulty manufacture and firing, or a high moisture content.

Dark: A dark or dull colour that usually indicates poorer leaf.

Green: When referring to black tea, refers to under-fermentation or to leaves from immature bushes (liquors often raw or light). Can also be caused by poor rolling.

Mixed or Uneven: Leaf of varying colour.


Terms used to describe Liquors:

Aroma: Smell or scent denoting “inherent character,” usually in tea grown at high altitudes.

Bakey: An over-fired liquor. Tea in which too much moisture has been driven off.

Body: A liquor having both fullness and strength, as opposed to being thin.

Bright: Denotes a lively fresh tea with good keeping quality.

Brisk: The most “live” characteristic. Results from good manufacture.

Burnt: Extreme over-firing.

Character: An attractive taste, specific to origin, describing teas grown at high altitudes.

Coarse: Describes a harsh, undesirable liquor.

Coloury: Indicates useful depth of colour and strength.

Cream: A precipitate obtained after cooling in well-made low grown teas.

Dull: Not clear, and lacking any brightness or briskness.

Earthy: Normally caused by damp storage, but can also describe a taste that is sometimes “climatically inherent” in teas from certain regions.

Empty: Describes a liquor lacking fullness. No substance.

Flat: Not fresh (usually due to age).

Flavour: A most desirable extension of “character,” caused by slow growth at high elevations. Relatively rare.

Fruity: Can be due to over-fermentation and/or bacterial infection before firing. An overripe taste.

Full: A good combination of strength and colour.

Gone off: A flat or old tea. Often denotes a high moisture content.

Green: An immature, “raw” character. Often due to under fermentation (Sometimes under withering).

Harsh: A taste generally due to under withered leaf. Very rough.

Heavy: A thick, strong and coloury liquor with limited briskness.

High-Fried: Over-fired but not bakey or burnt

Lacking: Describes a neutral liquor. No body or pronounced characteristics.

Light: Lacking strength and depth of colour.

Malty: A full, bright tea with a taste of malt.

Mature: Not bitter or flat.

Metallic: A sharp Metallic taste.

Muddy: A dull liquor.

Musty: Suspicion of mould.

Plain: A liquor that is “clean” but lacking in desirable characteristics.

Pungent: Astringent with a good combination of briskness, brightness and strength.

Quality: Refers to “cup quality” and denotes a combination of the most desirable liquoring qualities.

Raw: A bitter, unpleasant flavour.

Soft: The opposite of briskness. Lacking any “live” characteristic. Caused by inefficient fermentation and/or firing.

Strength: Substance in cup.

Taint: Characteristic or taste that is foreign to tea, such as oil, garlic, etc. Often due to being stored next to other commodities with strong characteristics of their own.

Thick: Liquor with good colour and strength.

Thin: An insipid light liquor that lacks desirable characteristics.


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