Glossary of Tea Tasting Terms

Tea tastings open you up to experiencing and describing your cup of tea in a new way. The complexities of tea are endless; from the appearance of the leaves, the aroma, the liquor, to the flavor, it sometimes seems as though there are hardly enough words to describe the nuances you’re experiencing!

In a professional tea tasting setting, it is encouraged that you smell the leaves before and after steeping. The aroma (also known as the nose) can often reveal subtle nuances. How does the aroma of the dry leaves compare to the wet leaves? What about the aroma of the brewed cup?

Slurp your tea to draw it across your palate. Take note of how the flavor may alter or dissipate. What characteristics do notice first? How does the liquor feel on your tongue? Does the flavor linger? By noticing these traits, you will soon start to pick out characteristics and notes that appeal to you.

Above all, remember to enjoy yourself! Tea tasting is a very individual experience; how one person describes a tea may vary widely with how another person would describe that same tea.

  • Aroma: The odor of the tea liquor, also called the nose or fragrance. A complex aroma is often described as a bouquet.
  • Astringency: A lively and mouth-drying effect on the tongue. Not bitter, but a clean and refreshing quality. The sensation of astringency is caused by a reaction between polyphenols (tannins) and the protein in saliva.
  • Body: The tactile aspect of tea’s weight and substance in the mouth, variously subcategorized as light, medium, or full; also known as fullness.
  • Bright: A lively, clean style that refreshes the palate.
  • Character: A tea’s signature attributes depending upon origin, whether of itscountry, region or type.
  • Clean: Indicates purity of flavor and an absence of any off-tastes.
  • Finish: The lasting taste on your tongue after swallowing the tea.
  • Flowery: A floral nose or flavor associated with high grade teas.
  • Full: References a positive sensation of body and good heft; indicates a well-made tea, possessing color, strength, substance and roundness.
  • Malty: A sweet malt flavor that is characteristic of Assam black teas.
  • Muscatel: A flavor reminiscent of grapes, most often used to describe anexceptional characteristic found in the liquors of the finest Darjeelings.
  • Smooth: Round-bodied, fine-drinking teas.
  • Soft: Smooth, lush, and subsequently often (but not necessarily) timid in flavor;not a negative term.
  • Thick: Describes liquor having substance, but not necessarily strength.
  • Vegetal: A characteristic of green teas that might include grassy, herby or marine flavors.