Tea Tasting Terminology
(Taken from "The Book of TEA" - Antony Bugess)
Terms Describing 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 fiber, 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.
Light: A tea light in weight, of poor density. Sometimes flaky.
Make: Well-made tea (or not), true to its grade.
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.
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".
Wiry: Leaf appearance of a well-twisted, thin-leaf tea.
Terms Describing Infused Leaf -
Aroma: Smell or scent denoting "inherent character," usually in tea grown at high altitudes.
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 Describing Liquors
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.
Dry: Indicates slight over-firing.
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 underfermentation (Sometimes underwithering).
Harsh: A taste generally due to underwithered 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 mold.
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 flavor.
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.