Tea Glossory

Throughout the trade, the international tea language is English.

However, this is English that is different from what you and I are accustomed to. For example, when tea people talk about the grades of a leaf, it has nothing to do with the quality. Dust is a term given to the smallest leaf particle. The word stringy, used in connection with tea, describes large leaf china tea of good quality after it has been “made”. Made tea refers not to the tea brewing in the pot, but to the tea at the end of production. These are just a few examples of the tea trade vocabulary, which enables its people throughout the world to understand each other completely—here are a few more.

Tea Glossary Index

  1. General Tea Glossary
  2. General Green Tea Glossary
  3. Tea manufacturing glossary
  4. Tea tasting glossary
  5. Terms describing infused tea leaf
  6. Terms describing tea liquor

General Tea glossary

  • Black Tea – tea that has been fired or dried after the fermentation or oxidation period of manufacture.
  • Blend – a mixture of teas from different growths, or growths from different areas.
  • Blender – tea taster who decides on the proportions of each different tea required to produce the flavor of a given blend.
  • Break – An amount of tea, comprising a given number of chests or sacks of tea.
  • Broker – A tea taster who negotiates the selling of tea from producers, or the buying of tea for Packers or dealers, for a brokerage fee from the party on whose behalf the broker is working.
  • Caddy – The name given to a tin or jar of tea which takes its name from the Chinese or Malayan word “catty” — a term used to describe the weight of 1 pound of tea. In the past, tea caddies were equipped with a lock and key.
  • Ceylon – Blends grown on the island of Sri Lanka.
  • Cha – the word for key drive from the Chinese and Indian languages.
  • Cloning – cuttings taken from old tea bushes to produce new tea bushes.
  • Dimbula – A tea growing district just above Dickoya, which gives its name to a blend of Ceylon teas from this area and is also used in Ceylon blends. Dimbula Teas are black and characterized by their full-bodied flavor.
  • Earl Grey – and black china tea treated with the oil of bergamot. Scratch that, which gives the TA scented aroma and taste. It was said to have been blended for and named after the second Earl Grey, by a Chinese Mandarin after the success of a British diplomatic mission to China.
  • English breakfast tea – and named for the tea blend which originally applied to China Congou tea in United States of America. In Britain it was a name applied to a blend of teams from India and Sri Lanka; today it is used to include blends of black teas producing a full-bodied, strong flavored, colorful tea.
  • Estate – a tea growing property or holding that may include more than one garden under the same managership or ownership.
  • Garden – the name originally given to tea growing plantations or estates. The Japanese originally cultivated “tea gardens” within their temples and palace grounds and it copied this idea from the Chinese.
  • Grade – a term used to describe a tea leaf or particle size of leaf.
  • Green tea – tea that is withered, immediately steamed or heated to kill the enzymes, then rolled or dried. It has a light appearance and flavor.
  • Gunpowder tea – normally a china tea, but today it could be any young tea, which is rolled into a small pellet sized ball then dried. The finished tea has a grayish appearance, not unlike gunpowder in color, which is how the tea gets its name.
  • Pan fired –Typically, a kind of Japanese tea that is steamed, then rolled into iron pans over charcoal fires.
  • Plucking plateau – the flat top of the tea Bush from which the top to leaf and blood sprouts on springs are plucked.
  • Pruning – selective cutting back of the tea bush, so that it maintains its shape and helps to keep productive.
  • Scented tea – green, semi-fermented or black teas that have been flavored by the addition of flowers, flower petals, fruits, spices or natural oils. Examples of these are jasmine tea, Rose Puchong, orange tea, cinnamon tea or Earl Grey tea.
  • Semi-fermented tea – tea that has been partially fermented before being fired or dried. The tea that has the qualities and appearance halfway between a green and black tea.
  • Single estate tea – a blend of teas from one particular estate or garden.
  • Smoky tea – a black tea from China of Formosa that has been smoked over a wood fire such as in the case of Lapsangsouchong.
  • Specialty tea – a blend of teas that takes its name from the area in which it is grown; a blend of tea blended for a particular person or event, or blended teas for a particular time of day.
  • Souchong – a large leaf black tea originated in China, Souchong tea was made from a small bush whose leafs were allowed to developed to very large size.
  • Tannin – the name to tea trade worldwide gives to polyphenols contained in tea. Polyphenols are responsible for the pungency of tea and gives its taste.
  • Tea factory – factory where the plucked leaf is made or manufactured into black or green tea.
  • Tea taster – and expert and involved in all stages of production, brokerage, buying, blending and final packaging.
  • Tip – the bud leaves on a tea bush.
  • Twankay – a low grade China Green tea. This word was corrupted Twanky, which was applied to the men manning the ships bringing the tea back from China. These ships often foundered on reaching the British coast and the bodies of the Twinkies would be washed ashore to be found by their widows — hence the name given to the Aladdin character Widow Twank by Victorian impresario.
  • Uva – A tea growing district in Sri Lanka which produces a tea of great subtlety.

General Green tea Glossary

  • Chinese type gunpowder special – tiny particles of tea resembling pellets. Generally having a smoky character in the cup.
  • Young Hysen – large particles, three times the size of gunpowder.
  • Green tea Fannings – similar to BOPF. Suitable fortea similar Japanese sencha
  • Senchafannings – smaller particles of the same tea, using in teabags.

Tea manufacturing glossary

  • CTC – cut, tear and curl describes a machine which literally cuts, tears and curls the withered leaf, breaking the leaf veins. This release is the juices or enzymes of the leaf and completes the second stage of manufacturing. Today, the term CTC, or unorthodox tea is applied to all types of manufacturing other than orthodox. It is used in the second stage of manufacturing with the tea leaves are broken into particles before fermentation and drying.
  • Drying – see firing.
  • Broken Orange Pekoe – BOP. black tea comprising smaller leaves and broken segments with an abundance of tips. Can be applied to both orthodox and CTC teas.
  • Broken Pekoe – BP. full-bodied black tea comprising broken segments of somewhat coarser leaf, without tip. It can be applied to to both orthodox and CTC teas.
  • Fannings – small grainy particles of leaf 1-1.5 mm sifted out of better grade teas. Fannings will produce a liquor that as often as good as that of the whole grade leaf – It is a grade which applies to both orthodox and CTC teas. In Orthodox teas, fannings will include broken orange pekoe fannings (BOPF) and golden orange pekoe fannings (GOPF) which describe the amount of tips in a grade.
  • Flowery orange pekoe – can be either whole leaf or broken leaf orthodox black tea with a tip which gives its finer quality.
  • Flowery pekoe – A whole leaf black tea with the leaf rolled lengthwise.
  • Orange Pekoe – black tea comprising leaf 8-15 mm long which is fewer tips than an FOP.
  • Dust – the smallest particle of leaf size and both orthodox and CTC teas, which is normally used for tea bags, as they infuse quickly with the full flavor and strength coming through the teabag material.

Tea tasting glossary

  • Black – a black appearance is desirable, preferably with Bloom.
  • Blackish – a satisfactory appearance for CTC type teas. Denotes careful sorting.
  • Bloom – a sign of good manufacturing and sorting (or reduction of leaf has taken place before firing), a sheen that has not been lost through over handling or over sorting.
  • Bold – particles of leaf which are too large for the particular grade.
  • Brown – a brown appearance in CTC type teas that normally indicates overly harsh treatment of the tea leaf.
  • Chesty – A tea tainted by inferior unseasoned packing materials.
  • Chunky – a very large broken leaf tea.
  • Clean – leaf that is free from fiber, dirt and other extraneous matter.
  • Crepy – Leaf with a crimped appearance common to larger grade, broken leaf teas such as BOP.
  • Curly – leaf appearance of whole leaf grade teas such as OP, as distinct from wiry.
  • Even – teas true to their grading, consisting of pieces of leaf a fairly even size.
  • Flaky – flat, open pieces of leaf, often light in texture.
  • Grey – caused by too much abrasion in sorting.
  • Grainy – describes primary grades of well-made CTC teas such as pekoe dust.
  • Leafy – tea in which the leaf tends to be on the large or longish side.
  • Light – tea light in weight, or poor density and sometimes flaky.
  • Make – a term used to describe tea manufacturing batch.
  • Mushy – tea that has been packed or sorted with high moisture content.
  • Neat – a grade of tea having good “make” and size.
  • Nose – Smell of the dry leaf.
  • Powdery – fine light dust as the tea people say, meaning a very fine light leaf particle.
  • Ragged – an uneven, badly manufactured and graded tea.
  • Stalk and fiber – bits of tea bush other than the leaf, which be minimal in superior grades but are unavoidable in lower great teas.
  • Tip – A sign of fine plucking, a parent in top grades of tea.
  • Uneven and mixed – uneven pieces of leaf particles, indicating poor sorting and resulting in tea not true to a particular grade.
  • Well twisted – use to describe whole leaf orthodox tea grades, often referred to as well made or rolled.
  • Wiry – brief appearance of a well twisted, thin, longleaf.

Terms describing infused tea leaf

  • Aroma – smell or scent denoting inherent characters usually in a tea grown at high altitudes.
  • Biscuity – a pleasant aroma often found in well fired Assam.
  • Bright – a lively bright appearance, which usually indicates that the tea will produce a bright liquor.
  • Coppery – Bright leaf that indicates a well manufactured or make of tea.
  • Dark – a dark or dull color that usually indicates poor leaf quality.
  • Dull – lacks brightness and usually denotes poor tea. Can be due to faulty making (manufacturer) and firing, or a high moisture content.
  • Green – when referring to black tea it means leaf has been under fermented. Scratch that, or alternatively it can be a leaf plucked from immature bushes and will often, when liquored, result in a raw or lightly for. And also because by poor rolling during making or manufacturing.
  • Mixed or uneven – leaf or uneven color.
  • Tarry – a smoky aroma.

Terms describing tea liquor

  • Baggy – and unpleasant taste, normally resulting from the tea being carried or wrapped in unlined Hessian bags.
  • Bakey – and over fired tea, with the result that too much of the moisture has been driven off the leaf while drying.
  • Bitter – and unpleasant taste associated with raw teas.
  • Body – a liquor having fullness and strength as opposed to being thin.
  • Brassy – unpleasant metallic quality similar to brass. Usually associated with unwithered tea.
  • Bright – denotes a lively fresh tea with good keeping quality.
  • Brisk – the most live characteristic. Results from good manufacturing technique.
  • Burned – tainting caused by extreme overdrawing during the manufacturing process period
  • Character – attractive taste, specific to growth origin, describing peas grown at high altitude.
  • Course – A tea producing a harsh, undesirable liquor with taste to match.
  • Colory – indicates useful depth of color and strength.
  • Common – a very plain, light and thin liquor with no distinct flavor.
  • Cream – natural precipitate detained as the liquor cools down.
  • Dry – indicates slight over firing or drying during the manufacturing process.
  • Dull – not clear, lacking any brightness or briskness.
  • Earthy – normally caused by damp storage of tea, but can also describe a taste that is sometimes climatically incoherent in teas from certain regions.
  • Flat – not fresh, usually due to the age of the tea as the key tends to lose its characteristics in case with age, unlike some wines.
  • Flavor – a most desirable extension of character, caused by slow growth. Relatively rare.
  • Fruity – can be due to over fermenting during manufacturing and/or bacterial infection before firing or drying, which gives the tea and over ripe taste. Unlike wine this is not a desirable taste in tea.
  • Full – a good combination of strength and color.
  • Green – when referring to black tea liquor it denotes an immature [ raw ] character. This is mostly due to under fermenting and sometimes under withering during the manufacturing process.
  • Hard – a very pungent liquor, a desirable quality in tea.
  • Harsh – a taste generally do to the leaf being under withered during manufacturing resulting in a very rough taste.
  • Heavy – a thick, strong and colory liquor with limited briskness.
  • High fired – over fired or dried but not bakey or burned.
  • Lacking – describes a neutral liquor with no body or pronounced characteristics.
  • Light – lacking strength and depth of color.
  • Malty – a desirable character in some Assam teas. a full, bright tea with a malty taste.
  • Mature – not bitter or flat.
  • Metallic – a sharp coppery taste.
  • Muddy – a dull opaque liquor.
  • Musty – a suspicion of mold.
  • Plain – a liquor that is “clean” but lacking desirable characteristics.
  • Point – a bright, acidic and penetrating characteristic.
  • Pungent – astringent with a good combination of briskness, brightness and strength.
  • Quality – refers to cut quality and the notes a combination of the most desirable littering qualities.
  • Rasping – a very coarse and harsh liquor.
  • Raw – a bitter, unpleasant taste. Soft – the opposite of Christmas. He lacking any live characteristics and is caused by insufficient fermenting and/or drying.
  • Stewed – a soft liquor with undesirable taste that lacks point. Caused by faulty firing, or drawing, at low temperatures and often with insufficient airflow through the open drinking manufacturing or making.
  • Strength – substance in cup.
  • Taint – characteristics or taste that is foreign to tea such as oil, garlic, etc. Often due to the tea being stored next to other commodities with strong characteristics of their own.
  • Thick – liquor with good color and strength.
  • Thin – an insipid, light liquor that lacks desirable characteristics.
  • Weedy – grass or hate case associated with teams that have been under weather during manufacture and sometimes referred to as what he.