Tea Terms Glossary

There are so many terms when talking about tea.  It's an entirely new vocabulary.  Until you have an idea of what all the terms mean, it can be a bit foreign and mysterious.  To and try and demystify and introduce more people to the world of tea, we will slowly add to our list of "tea terms".  Below is a list of terms for tea and for the site. It’s ever growing.  In many cases the definition may not be text book but it is our understanding of the meaning of the word.  Links to where we have used the words are given.  In some cases, we will reference a blog post as that may be where we first introduced the term.  References of other more robust tea term glossaries are given if you want to see another way of describing the same word or term.

 Attractive: Well-made, uniform colour and size.

Autumnal:  A seasonal term applied to teas grown during the period possessing varying degrees of flavour.

Bakey:  Unpleasent taste usually caused by very high temperatures and too much moisture loss during firing.

Black tea: tea leaves that comes from the camellia sinensis plant but has been oxidized the longest

Body: A liquor possessing fullness and strength.

Bold: Pieces of leaf that are too big for a grade.

Bright: Alive, as a opposed to dull-looking infusion.  Opposite of dull.

Brisk: A live taste in the liquor, as opposed to flat or soft.

Burn: Generally applicable to Darjeeling teas, denoting a fully fired cup character.

Burnt: Tea subjected to high temperatures during firing.  An undesirable quality.

Camellia sinensis:  a species of the evergreen shrub whose leaves and buds are used to make tea.  There are two different varieties of this plant, camellia sinensis var. sinensis and camellia sinenesis var. assamica from which white tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong, pu-erh and black tea come from.

Chai: Tea with origins from India.  It is made with black tea mixed with spices. The 5 main spices that are used to make chai are cardomom, cinnamon, ginger, black peppercorn and fennel seeds.  These spices are brewed with black tea then topped with milk and honey or some other sweetener.

Character: A most desirable quality which permits recognition of the tea's origin

Chunky: Usually applied to large-sized tip.  Desirable quality.

Colour: Denoting depth of colour.  Different growths/grades possess varying depths of colour.

Cold brew: Cold brew tea is tea, lose or bags, placed in water then refrigerated until the tea has been steeps or to taste.  It is one method of making iced tea.

Coppery: Colour of infused leaf, usually denoting a good quality tea.

Cream:  Precipitate that develops when tea cools.  A bright cream indicates a good tea.

CTC: CTC stands for cut, tear, curl. The tea leaves are cut and torn into little pieces so that the oxidation process occurs more quickly.  With this method, a single more consistent flavour is created.

cut: orthodox leaf cut in a breaker rather than in a roller.

decaffeinated:  Something, usually a drink, is said to be decaffeinated if it originally had caffeine in it and then it was removed.

Dry:  Slightly bakey or high-fired.

Dry leaves:  these are the tea leaves after they have been oxidized and before steeping.

Dull: Opposite of bright.  A liquor that is neither clear nor bright/brisk.  Caused by several factors such as faulty firing or excessive moisture.

Even: Grade consisting of roughly equal-sized pieces.

Flaky:  A flat, open leaf as opposed to a well-twisted leaf.  Usually the result of poor withering or rolling.

Flat:  Lacking in briskness.  Caused by old age.

Golden Tip: Highly desirable feature in orthodox teas. Obtained by good withering and rolling.

Grainy: Well-made hard leaf.

Green: Generally undesirable.  Typical of first flush.

Iced Tea: Tea that is served cold.  There are different methods to brew or make iced tea.  Among the methods are cold brew, sun brew, hot + ice 

Knolling: A method of photography where objects are laid flat, at right angles to one another, on a one coloured background and a picture taken from above. 

Large: Implies a grade too large for market requirements.

Loose leaf tea:  From what I have seen tea comes in little bags or pouches that are closed, so tea bags, or in a big bag full of dried leaves and other herbs.  The latter is loose leaf tea.

Make: A tea having "make" is carefully manufactured.

Milled: Tea leaf put through a cutter and ground.

Mixed: Denotes presence of other grades in a particular grade.

Molding: Tea gone off through age, or damaged by water.

Musty: Suspicion of mould.

Neat: Well-made teas of even appearance.

Old: Having lost most original attributes through age.

origin: Typical tea origins include India, Ceylon, China and Japan. More recent origins include Bangladesh, Vietnam and parts of Africa.

Pluck: this is when the tea leaves are picked or harvested

Pungent: Extremely brisk. Most desirable.

Quality: essential characteristics of a good tea.

Ragged: rough and uneven leaf.

Shotty: Well-made and rolled, particularly in reference to Orthodox BPS, Broken Pekoe Souchong

Small: A grade with smaller than normal leaves.

Steep:  When you put the dried tea leaves into hot water and let it soak in there for a period of time, that soaking process is called steeping.  I guess it’s when all the flavour from the tea leaves comes out into the water.

Strength/Strong: Substance in liquor-body.

Stylish: Neat and superior leaf appearance.

Sun brew: This is another method for making iced tea.  Tea, bags or lose leaf, are put in a jug of water and left out "in the sun" to steep.

Tea: (From google dictionary)

  1. a hot drink made by infusing the dried, crushed leaves of the tea plant in boiling water.
  2. a light afternoon meal consisting typically of tea to drink, sandwiches, and cakes. (British)

Tea blend:  this is tea that is made up of a blend of herbs, teas, fruits, spices and whatever else the tea blender may choose to put into a tea

Tea Time: Tea Time is more than just sitting down to drink tea. It's a time to put all of life's demands off to the side for a short time and focus on the hear and now and on ourselves in that time.  It's a time to share with friends, family, colleagues, students whomever may be in our life at the moment.  It's like a vacation  from our day without physically going anywhere.  We can't always be with who want at that moment, or may know of people who really need to make time for "tea time", and a tea greeting is the perfect way to to make that "tea time".  It's not about tea, per say, although we want everyone to spread the tea love, but it's about taking the time to slow down and enjoy, now.  It's a little bit of "me time" to be shared or enjoyed alone.

Thin: lacking in body.  Often due to over-withering or inadequate oxidization.

Twist: Well rolled, particularly in reference to whole leaf.

Well-made: Uniform in colour, size and texture.

Wild: Liquor character found in end-of-season teas.  Undesirable.

withering: When the tea leaf is plucked from the plant it immediately starts to wilt and wither.  Withering in the tea manufacturing process is a more controlled process that takes place in the tea processing facility.  


Tea 101 - Introduction to tea, Academy of Tea, URL:  https://academyoftea.org/tea101/ 

Tea Terminology, Teatulia, URL: https://www.teatulia.com/tea-101/what-is-tea/tea-terminology.htm

Glossary of Terms, The Tea Association of the USA, Inc. URL: http://www.teausa.com/14656/glossary-of-terms