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The Tea Lexicon
A step towards choosing the best tea involves knowing this term. A must for a true tea aficionado you also learn about the science of making tea. One of TeaOrb’s mission is to popularize tea on the lines of finest wines. If you are into wines, you will notice familiar terms from the wine lexicon in ‘The Contact’ section of the product page.
As a part of an initiative to educate our patrons, we at TeaOrb have collected all those terms or phrases exclusively for you:
Acceptable: Despite deficiencies, saleable
Adhesive: Well-made wiry teas appearing to stick together
Attractive: Good looking, well-made, uniform in colour, size and texture
Black: Fermented or oxidized tea
Blister: Rapid removal of moisture causes blistered tea leaves.
Bloom: sheen or luster or shine
Broken: broken by rolling or passing through a cutter/breaker
Case-hardening: applies mainly to orthodox teas: when outside casing becomes fully fired and prevents the core from losing moisture.
Chesty: resinous smell caused by immature or inferior panels or batten
Cheesy: smell or taint caused by inferior glue of the panels.
Choppy: chopped in a breaker mill or a cutter instead of roller
Chunky: brokens which are large: desirable feature when applied to the tip.
Clean: evenly sorted grade free from qualities of other grades, stalk and fiber.
Crepy: crimped appearance
Dull tip: opposed to Bright
Dusty: leaf tea consisting of tea dust
Even: consisting of pieces of roughly equal size in a grade
Flaky: Flat, open, poorly made tea
Flat: open and flaky tea
Glass: density/volume measurement
Golden tip: denotes colour of the tip of a leaf; a good attribute
Grainy: well-made hard leaf
Grapenutty: leaf-balled in the process of manufacture
Green: Green particles due to dehydration in withering; applies to Black tea manufacturing
Grey: colour of leaf, lacking bloom
Gritty: leaf which feels hard to touch
Hairy: Thin fibre; similar to whiskery
Knobbly: round Souchong grades
Large: large for market requirements.
Leafy: tea containing larger leaves than normal; coupled with ‘Useful’; denotes a size in demand
Leggy: Long thin leaves
Make: good style
Milled: put through cutter or mill
Mixed: exaggerated form of unevenness
Neat: Good leaf of even appearance
Open: opposed to twisted or rolled
Pale tip: refers to tip of the tea leaf. Less valuable than golden or silver tip
Powdery: Very fine light dust of tea, the particles of which tend to cohere
Pulverized: dust containing milled fiber
Ragged: rough, shaggy and uneven
Rough: irregular, not well made
Sandy: containing sand
Shelly: shell-like appearance
Shotty: Well made Souchong
Spongy: Flat or flaky
Stalky: Excessive stalk
Stylish: superior appearance or make
Tippy: generous tip of the tea buds
Twist: curl imparted during rolling
Useful: possessing good blending qualities
Well-made: Uniform in colour, size and texture
Whiskery: Fine hairy fibre
Wild: end season teas having reddish appearance
Wiry: Stylish, thin whole leaf
Aroma: fragrant smell of tea grown at high elevation
Black currant: aroma emitted by black currant bushes: noticeable in Darjeeling
Bright: Denotes a bright red brew or light leaf, as opposed to a dull brown or black color.
Coppery: (colour of the infusion) denotes good tea
Dull: opposed to Bright
Even: uniform colour
Green: generally undesirable except in green tea
Mixed: more than one colour
Uneven: similar to Mixed
Autumnal: desirable seasonal character for teas grown in September and October
Baggy: taint from hessian or sacking
Bakey: caused by high temperatures during firing
Biscuity: often used with Assam teas that have been fired well but not overly so.
Body: possessing fullness and strength
Bouquet: superlative aroma
Brassy: metallic taste
Bright: bright red brew or light leaf, as opposed to a dull brown or black color.
Brisk: A tea high in astringency. Opposed to Flat or Soft
Burn: fully fired to just over
Burnt: subjected to extremely high temperatures
Character: desirable quality, also permits recognition of origin of the tea estate
Cheesy: Cheesy as what is defined in Dry Leaf section
Chesty: signifying off odor in tea from the wood in the tea chest.
Clean: lacking in character but no unpleasant taint or taste.
Coarse: unpleasant taste: often due to excessive fibre.
Cold weather: teas produced after monsoon.
Coloury: depth of colour
Contamination: foreign taste
Creamy: precipitate obtained after cooling
Croppy: bright and creamy with character
Dry: slightly high-fired
Dull: neither clear or bright, nor lively or brisk dark
Earthy: taste due to long storage under damp conditions
Empty: lacking fullness and substance
Fine: exceptional quality and flavor
Flat: lifeless, lacking briskness or astringency
Fruity: unpleasant overripe taste
Full: Strong tea without bitterness and possessing good color.
Fully Fired: slightly over fired
Geranium: reminiscent of aroma of geranium or cranesbill found in certain Darjeeling teas
Gone off: liquor past prime. Usually for a tea that goes bad by improper storage or packing.
Grassy: teas without physical or chemical wither
Green/Greenish: early first flush
Hard: sharp and desirable strength, pungency which is usually found in Assams
Harsh/harshness: high firing or under-withering creates an astringent taste, also a term that denotes bitter teas
Hay: woody or grassy character in pre-autumnal teas
Heavy: a strong colourful infusion without briskness or astringency
Hungry: lacking cup character
Jammy: See Raspberry
Juicy: good all-round liquor
Lacking: clean tasting without obvious characteristics
Light: lacking depth of colour
Malty: desirable character
Mature: reaching maturity, optimal liquor character
Mellow: well-matured: opposed to raw
Metallic: bitter metallic taste
Minty: mint-like flavor
Mouldy: Gone off through age or damaged by water
Mushy: flat, soggy
Musty: suspicion of mold
Muscatel: reminiscent of vineyards, characteristic found in exceptional Darjeelings
Neutral: without pronounced cup character
New: not having had sufficient time to mellow
Nose: aroma of the tea
Old: See Flat
Pale: Lacking in colour except in Green teas where liquors should be pale
Papery: paper taint with dry or flat character, an aged tea
Peachy: flavor of certain fine Darjeelings
Pinky: brighter, more pink and delicate than coloury
Point: most desirable brightness and acidity
Pointy: Most desirable brightness and acidity creating a fresh “sparkle” on the tongue.
Pungent: ideal combination of briskness, brightness, strength and flavor; also denotes astringency
Quality: essential characteristics of good teas
Rains/Rainy: teas produced in autumn/fall
Raspberry: flavor akin to raspberries
Rich: mellow liquor abundant in quality and thickness
Rosy: liquor colour
Round: full smooth liquor
Scorched: associated with dryness
Self-drinking: palatable in itself, not requiring blending
Smoky: taint from the smoke in the dryers
Soggy: heavy dull liquor
Soft: opposite to Brisk, unfermented teas
Souchong: Term for large leaf teas derived from the third and fourth leaf of the tea shoot
Sour: a bacterial infection
Spicy: character suggestive of spices
Stewed: incorrectly fired
Strength/strong: a full bodied cup denotes good teas
Sweaty: unpleasant taste
Taint: foreign characteristic
Thin: Opposite of thick
Thick: A description of viscosity, ranging from light, almost water to a heavy, juice consistency.
Tired: flat because of ageing
Toasty: caused by overfiring
Unsound: tainted or lacking keeping properties
Weak: lacking body and colour
Weathery: unpleasant taste on rain teas
Weedy: thin, cabbage-like
Wild: autumnal teas past their prime
Winey: over-fermented under sterile conditions
Woody: sawdust-like character
Green tea: type of manufacture without fermentation
Black: oxidized leaf, undesirable quality for green tea
Polish: processing with powder to give sheen
Pale: liquor colour
Cloudy: undesirable liquor characteristic
Silky: smooth and soft texture.