The Tea Lexicon

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:

Dry leaf

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 

Infused 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

Dark: Dull

Dull: opposed to Bright

Even: uniform colour

Green: generally undesirable except in green tea

Irregular: Mixed

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

Raw: immature

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

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.