Tea & Spice Glossary

Agony of the Leaves: An expression commonly used to describe the slow unfurling or opening up of dry tea leaves in hot water.

Anhui: A Chinese province famous for producing green tea and Keemun black tea.

Antioxidants: Beneficial molecular compounds called polyphenols in tea that neutralize harmful biological compounds called free radicals.

Aroma: The smell of the steaming brewed tea.

Artisinal: A flowering or blooming black, green, or white premium leaf tea, created by tea artisans who have sewn the leaves in a specific form, often a ball-like shape.

Assam: Camellia assamica species of tea harvested in the state of Assam in India, the largest tea producing region in the world.

Astringency: A sense of puckery dryness on the tongue and palate caused by polyphenols in the tea.

Autumnal: A description used primarily for Darjeeling teas harvested just before winter.

Bakey: Tea that has been fired for too long a time or at too high a temperature resulting in an over-baked, burnt, unpleasant tasting tea.

Bergamot: A fragrant essence from the skin of the bergamot orange fruit used to flavor teas, particularly the world famous Earl Grey black teas.

Biscuity: Refers generally to assam teas that have been heated or fired just enough, not over-heated, such as to create a nice aroma akin to that of a biscuit.

Bitter: A biting sensation at the back of the tongue caused by the tea.

Black Currant: An aroma similar to that from black currant bushes as may be found in the best of brewed darjeeling teas.

Black tea: The dark amber infusion that results when fully oxidized dried leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis are brewed for about 3 to 4 minutes between 203⁰ and 212⁰F.

Blend:  One or more varieties of tea leaf combined to form a consistent tea flavor from year to year.

Blooming tea: A ball-like flowering tea formed from tea leaves sewn together that opens up when steeped in a teapot as flower petals open in the morning sun.

Body: Overall sensation of fullness, thin, medium or full, produced by tea when in the mouth.

BOP:  Acronym used for Broken Orange Pekoe.

Bouquet:  Complex fragrant pleasant aroma.

BP:  Acronym for Broken Pekoe.

Brassy: Unpleasant acidic taste resulting from tea leaves that have not been dried for a long enough time.

Brick tea:  Tea steamed and then compressed into a rectangular or brick-like shape, a term primarily used in connection with puerh.

Broken: Describes the smaller pieces of tea leaves resulting from cut or crushed whole tea leaves.

Broken Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a grade of black tea consisting of relatively large pieces of broken tea leaf, above broken pekoe (BP) but below flowery broken orange pekoe (FBOP).

Broken Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a grade of black tea consisting of relatively larger pieces of broken tea leaf, above broken orange pekoe (BOP) but below orange pekoe (P).

Caffeine: A compound found in tea leaves that stimulates the body.

Bud: A tea tip.

Cambric tea: A beverage, historically for children, comprised of sugar, hot water or heated milk, and black tea.

Catechins: An antioxidant polyphenol found in tea, particularly in green tea.

Ceylon tea: Tea from the country of Sri Lanka formerly known by its British name “Ceylon”.

Cha: The English word for the character 茶 which represents the word “tea” in China and Japan.

Chai: The word for tea in India; also meaning the spicy tea drink popularized in India including black tea, milk, sugar and a variety of spices.

Chanoyu:  Japanese tea ceremony.

Character: The aspects of tea, such as flavor and aroma, that connect it to its origin.

Cheesy: Unfavorable buttery quality in tea generally caused by poor packaging.

Chest: The packaging used for shipping tea overseas usually consisting of wood lined by aluminum.

Chesty: Describes tea that has absorbed the unfavorable smell or taste of the chest in which it was shipped.

Chocolaty:  Describes tea, usually Darjeeling tea, that is sweet and roasty like straight chocolate.

Chunmee: Literally “Precious Eyebrows”, popular Chinese green tea that has a slight curl like an eyebrow.

Clean: Describes tea that drinks smoothly and has no unfavorable qualities.

Common: Run of the mill tea with no interesting qualities.

Complex: Describes tea that causing a variety of sensations.

Congou: Chinese black tea.

Coppery: Describes high quality reddish infusions of black tea; also describes the reddish-orange color of a tea leaf.

Creamy:  Precipitate, bright, dull, or muddy, that emerges upon a tea cooling,

CTC: Acronym for Cut, Tear, and Curl.

Cut, Tear, Curl:  Mechanical process whereby dried tea leaves are cut, torn and curled to form uniformly sized tea leaf pieces and prepare the leaves for oxidation.

Darjeeling: Region in northeastern India famous for growing brisk, floral black teas.

Delicate:  Describes tea that slowly releases its aroma and flavor.

Dhool: Describes a coppery tea leaf in the process of fermentation.

Display Tea: A blooming tea or flowering tea that after unfurling can serve as a decorative showpiece.

Dust: In the traditional black tea grading system, the lowest grade of black tea consisting of very small granular pieces of tea leaf, generally of inferior quality and used in tea bags. 

Earl Grey: A bergamot scented tea.

Earthy:  Describes tea with a typically an unpleasant taste of dirt or soil resulting from exposure to water or poor storage conditions; may also describe something not necessarily unpleasant that tastes of the earth.

Empty: Describes a tea without any fullness, substance, or body,

English Breakfast Tea:  Famous Chinese black tea blend typically served during breakfast time with milk and sugar.

Extraneous Particles: Non-leaf tea plant structures, such as stems and stalks, processed along with the tea leaves, and generally adding unwanted flavors to the final tea product.

Fair trade teas:  Teas certified by a qualifying certifying agency as having been derived from a supply chain in which the tea farmer and tea workers were paid a decent wage to assist in providing an adequate standard of living.

Fannings: In the traditional black tea grading system, an inferior grade of black tea consisting of very small pieces of tea leaves about 1 mm in diameter sifted out the tea, one grade above dust, and used only in tea bags.  

FBOP:  An acronym for Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe.

Fermentation: Term often mistakenly and confusingly used in describing processing of tea leaves, instead of the proper term “oxidation”.  See oxidation.

Fibrous: Describes teas with substantial amount of low grade fannings.

Fine: Describes a tea in which it is of very good quality in all aspects.

Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1: In the traditional black tea grading system, this term describes the highest grade of tea leaf characterized by consistent leaf size, and many white or golden tips.

Firing: Step in tea leaf processing when the tea leaves are heated to stop oxidation by denaturing tea leaf enzymes which stops the further breaking down of biological chemicals in the leaf.

Flat: Describes a bland dull tea having no flavor or fullness.

Flavor: How a tea tastes, namely the memory-evoking sensations induced by the tea beverage.

Flavored tea: Tea the taste of which has been enhanced by the addition of other scents, spices, or flavors.

Flowery: In the traditional black tea grading system, describes tea leaves with light-colored tips; also may be used to describe a particular floral taste of the tea beverage.

Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a coarser broken grade black tea that has some tips.

Flowery Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a plain full leaf grade of black tea with some tips.

Flush: Refers to one of the four tea leaf harvesting seasons, “first flush”, “second flush”, “third flush”, and “fourth flush”.

FOP:  Acronym for Flowery Orange Pekoe.

Formosa:  Refers to teas, typically oolong teas, from the country of Taiwan, formerly known by its British name, Formosa.

Formosa Teas: Tea produced in Taiwan, typically oolong teas. Formosa Tea produced in Taiwan; primarily Oolong teas

Fresh: Flavorful tea with pleasant invigorating qualities.

Fruity: Describes tea with flavors of fruit.

FTGFOP 1: Acronym for Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1.

Full: Describes a strong vibrant tea with positive qualities, including flavor, color, and character.

Genmaicha: A Japanese tea consisting of a blend of green tea and toasted rice.

GBOP: Acronym for Golden Broken Orange Pekoe.

GFBOP: Acronym for Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe.

GFOP: Acronym for Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.

Golden: Describes fine tea having orange tips.

Golden Broken Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a broken grade black tea having some golden tips.

Golden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a high quality broken grade black tea having some golden tips and producing a flowery tea.

Gong fu: Chinese tea brewing process whereby tea is carefully and patiently steeped in high concentrations in a teapot for short periods of time.

Grades: The measurements of tealeaf size in the traditional system of categorizing black teas.

Grainy: Describes fine Cut Tear Curl teas.

Grassy:  Tea that has a vegetal flavor.

Green Tea: Green tea is the yellowish beverage that results when treated leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis are brewed for about 2 to 3 minutes between176⁰ to 194⁰ F.

Gunpowder: Popular green tea that has been tightly rolled into small pellets, the color resembling gun powder.

Gyokuro: Meaning “pearl dew”, a Japanese green tea similar to sencha but grown in the shade rather than the sun.

Guywan: Chinese tea cup covered with a lid and typically accompanied by its own saucer.

Harsh:  Describes unpleasant bitter tea.

Hard: Describes a strongly flavored Assam tea.

Hay:  Describes a tea with a moist straw- or stalk-like flavor and/or aroma.

Heavy: Describes tea that is strong in color and strength but lacks astringency.

Herbaceous: Describes grassy or plant-like tea flavor and/or aroma.

Herbal tea: Refers to a variety of beverages that result when different herbs, flowers and spices, and non-Camellia sinensis plant leaves, are boiled in water for 5-10 minutes. 

Hyson: A popular Chinese green tea characterized by twisted green tea leaves.

Iced Tea: A cool tea resulting from hot tea brewed at twice the normal concentration and chilled over ice.

Infusion:  The beverage that results from heating teas, spices and herbs in water.

Jasmine: The flowery scent of the jasmine flower often used to scent or flavor tea.

Keemun:  Rolled and fired fine Chinese black tea that is typically used in blends such as English Breakfast Tea.

Kenyan: Tea from the country of Kenya, Africa’s largest tea producing country.

Lapsang Souchong: Popular Chinese black tea characterized by a smoky flavor.

Light:  Describes tea that is thin and has little body, taste, aroma or color.

Lively:  A tea, full, vibrant and astringent, that happily dances on the tongue and palate.

Malty:  A grain-like taste attributed generally to Assam teas that have been heated by fire a little longer than normal.

Matcha: A popular Japanese powdered green tea usually prepared by whisking and used in Chanoyu, the Japanese tea ceremony.

Metallic: Describes unpleasant tinny tea taste, generally used in connection with characterizing black teas.

Muddy: Unpleasant looking tea infusion characterized by opacity.

Muscat/Muscatel: Grape or muscat flavor of fine Darjeeling teas.

Nose:  The smell, odor, aroma of a tea.

Nutty:  Describes roasted flavor of tea that evokes taste of common nuts.

Oolong: Oolong tea, often from Taiwan, is the amber beverage that results when partially oxidized dried leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis are brewed for about 3 to 4 minutes between 203⁰ and 212⁰ F.

OP: Acronym for Orange Pekoe

Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a medium size of tea leaf a step higher than pekoe.

Organic:  Describes teas that are certified by a certifying agency as being free of pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides.

Orthodox: Traditional non-mechanical tea processing.

Oxidation: A chemical breakdown of biological compounds present in the plucked tea leaf.

Pan-fired: Describes heating the tea leaf in a container to stop oxidation of the leaf.

Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a basic small sized tea leaf that results after processing.

Pine:  Describes tea flavor that evokes memories of the taste and smell of the pine tree.

Plain: Describes a dull tea that is common and has no distinctive characteristics.

Plucking: The physical removal of tea leaves, usually the two leaves and a bud, from a tea bush.

Point: Describes a lively tea with clean focused aroma and astringency.

Polyphenols: Chemical compound found in tea and other plants with possible antioxidant benefits.

Pouchang: A slightly oxidized oolong tea produced in China and Taiwan.

Pu-erh Tea: A unique Chinese earthy black tea produced using a Chinese aging technique.

Pungent: Describes tea that is pleasantly penetratingly astringent.

Raw: Describes a tea with bitterness.

Rich: Describes a flavorful tea full of body and complexity.

Rolling: Step in processing tea whereby dried tea leaves are rolled over on in order to break the tea leaves and start the oxidation process.

Rooibos: A popular African herb that produces an orange-red infusion.

Scented tea: Teas in which a particular odor and flavor is achieved by the addition of fragrance, oils, herbs, spices, fruits and/or flowers.

Self-drinking:  Tea that requires no scenting, flavoring or blending as it is of high quality, full body and good flavor by itself.

Sencha: A popular Japanese green tea.

SFTGFOP1: Acronym for Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1.

Smoky: Describes flavor imparted to tea from the wood firing or heating process used to stop further oxidation of the tea leaf.

Smooth:  Describes a clean and lively tea that is not flat, dull or overly astringent.

Soft: Describes tea that has not been oxidized for long enough time.

Souchong: Black tea characterized by large tea leaves, usually plucked in 3rd or 4th flush.

Special Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe 1: In the traditional black tea grading system, the very highest grade of black tea above Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.

Spicy: Describes tea that has the odor or flavor of spices.

Stale: Describes tea that is old, dull, and flat, lacking any preferred liveliness.

Stalk: Describes teas that have stems or stalks of the tea leaf, leading to an unfavorable taste.

Strength:  Characterization of a tea’s overall character, including aroma, color, and body.

Strong: A full tea with intense aroma, color and body and liveliness.

Sweet:  Describes pleasant tea reminiscent of sugar.

Tangy: Describes tea that causes sweet and sour sensation on tongue.

Tannin: A specific polyphenol compound in tea and other plants that causes an astringent sensation.

Tarry: Describes tea with a smoky aroma and flavor.

Tat: In tea processing, the horizontal layer, usually consisting of wire mesh or burlap, upon which teas are dried and oxidized.

Tea: The beverage that results from heating the processed leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant in water.

Tea sommelier:  Individual with expert training and knowledge regarding tea.

Tea taster: Individual with who judges teas and can describe it qualities in standard tea lingo.

TGBOP: Acronmy for Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe.

TGFOP: Acronym for Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe.

Theaflavins: Reddish antioxidant phenolic compounds formed when tea oxidizes.

Theanine: Amino acid derivative found in tea thought to have many health benefits.

Theine:  Another term for caffeine.

Thick: Describes tea that is physically substantial but may or may not be strong.

Thin: Describes tea that is without strength, watery tasting.

Ti kuan yin: Literally “iron goddess of mercy”, a popular Chinese oolong tea from Fujian province. 

Tip:  The small, unopened tea leaf of a tea plant, also referred to as “bud”.

Tippy: Describes tea that has white (silver) or golden tips.

Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, describes broken tea leaves with a lot of tip, considered the best of broken black tea.

Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe: In the traditional black tea grading system, a high grade of black tea with larger leaves and lots of tips.

Tisane: An infusion brewed from non-tea leaf plants, such as rooibos and honeybush.

Toasty: Describes tea with a pleasant aroma as a result of a good amount of firing during processing of the leaf.

Tuocha: Bowl-shaped pu-erh brick tea.

Twist: Tea leaf that has been rolled tightly.

Two leaves and a bud: The parts of the tea plant that is usually plucked by tea harvesters.

Vegetal:  Describes grassy plant-like taste of tea.

Weak: Describes tea that lacks strength and is watery.

White tea: A slightly colored beverage that results when the very slightly wilted young delicate and dry leaves and buds of the plant Camellia sinensis are brewed for about 2 to 3 minutes between 176⁰ and 194⁰ F.A tea produced mostly in China.

Winey: Describes smooth aged Keemun tea with a fruity character.

Withering: The step tea processing after plucking in which the plucked tea leaves are left out to dry in the air for further processing.

Woody: Describes an unpleasant grassy barky taste in black tea.

Yixing: Name of unglazed teapots made from purple clay from Yixing region of China.

Yunnan: Province in southwestern China known for its spicy black teas and considered to be the birthplace of tea.

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