Tea Dictionary

Tea Dictionary


  • Afternoon Tea - The name given to the British meal taken mid-afternoon, comprising finger sandwiches, scones cakes and pastries accompanied by tea. The 7th Duchess of Bedford is reputed to have given birth to afternoon tea, early in the 19th century, when she decided to take tea to stave off the pangs of hunger she suffered between lunch and dinner.
  • Amoy -Fulien oolong teas marketed at Amoy.
  • Anhwei, Anhui -One of the provinces in China where tea is grown.
  • Assam -A region in northeastern India, known for its robust, high quality teas characterized by their smooth round, malty flavour.
  • Auction -Sale of tea in an auction room on a stipulated date at a specific time. Tea auctions are held in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Kenya and Malawi- these auctions only sell teas from their particular areas. The London Tea Auction, which was held every Monday morning (barring public or bank holidays) in the City of London until it's close in 1998 was the only true international tea auction, where teas from all over the world were sold.
  • Autumnal -Teas harvested in autumn and touched with cool weather. The term is normally applied to teas from India and Formosa.
  • Ball tea -China tea compressed in a ball to protect it against atmospheric changes.
  • Basket-fired -Japan tea that has been cured in baskets by firing or drying.
  • Billy tea -Tea made by Australian bushmen in billy cans.
  • Bitter tea -Tea brewing method used in Cashmere. Tea is boiled in a tinned copper vessel, red potash, aniseed and salt are added before it is served from a brass or copper, tin-lined teapot.
  • Black tea -Tea that has been fired or dried after the fermentation or oxidization  period of manufacture.
  • Blender -Tea taster who decides on the proportions of each different tea required to produce the flavour of a given blend.
  • Bohea -Tea from the Wu-i Hills in Fukien, China. Originally was applied to black China tea and to tea from Indonesia. In the 18th century Bohea (Bo-hee) was the name given to the tea drink.
  • Break -An amount of tea, comprising a given number of chests or sacks of tea.
  • Brick Tea -Common grades of China and Japan tea mixed with stalk and dust and molded into bricks under high pressure. Originally, these bricks were used by Asian travellers as a convenient way of carrying the tea they needed to drink and the bricks were also used to barter for other goods.
  • Broker -A tea taster who negotiates the selling of tea from producers, or the buying of tea for packers and dealers, for a brokerage fee from the party on whose behalf the broker is working.
  • Butter Tea -Boiled tea mixed with salt and soda, then strained into an urn containing butter and dried ground cereal (often barley) and churned. Butter tea is served in a basin and often a lump of butter is added when serving. It was served in Tibet and then in India.
  • Cachar -The most common variety of India tea, produced in Cachar district of Assam.
  • 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 one pound of tea. In the past tea caddies were equipped with a lock and key.
  • Camellia sinensis -Today, the tea trade's international botanical name for the tea plant.
  • Caravan tea -Tea taken by camel from China to Russia in the past.
  • Ceylon -Blends of teas grown on the island of Sri Lanka, which take their name from the colonial name for the island. The traditional name of Sri Lanka was readopted by the island when it became a Sovereign Republic in the Commonwealth in 1972.
  • Cha -The word for tea derived from the Chinese and Indian languages.
  • Chanoyu -The word for tea derived from the Chinese and Indian languages.
  • Chest -Original tea package, normally made of wood and lined with metal foil. Originally tea chests were lined with lead.
  • Ching Wo -Black China tea from Fujien province.

Dry Tea Leaf

  • Black -A black appearance is desirable preferably with 'bloom'.loose_tea_with_spoon
  • Blackish -A satisfactory appearance for CTC type teas. Denotes careful sorting.
  • Bloom -A sign of good manufacture and sorting (where 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.
  • Chunky -A very large broken-leaf tea.
  • Clean -Leaf that is free from fibre, dirt and all 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 grade, consisting of pieces of leaf of fairly even size.
  • Flaky -Flat open pieces of leaf often light in texture.
  • Grainy -Describes primary grades of well-made CTC teas such as Pekoe dust.
  • Leafy -A tea in which the tea tends to be on the large or longish size.
  • Light -Tea light in weight of poor density and sometimes flaky.
  • Make -A term used to describe tea manufacture, in tea-taster's terms a make that means a well-made tea or not true to its grade.
  • Mushy -Tea that has been packed or stored with a 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.
  • Stalk and Fiber -Bits of tea bush other than the leaf which should be minimal in superior grades but are unavoidable in lower-grade teas.
  • Tip -A sign of fine plucking apparent in top grades of tea.
  • Wiry -Leaf appearance of a well-twisted, thin, long leaf.
  • Aroma -Smell or scent denoting 'inherent character' usually in 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.
  • Mixed or Uneven -Leaf of varying colour.
  • Tarry -A smoky aroma which should not be there unless a Lapsang Souchong tea.

Tea Liquor

  • Bitter -An unpleasant taste associated with raw teas.tea_liquior
  • 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.
  • Character -An attractive taste, specific to growth origin describing teas grown at high altitude.
  • Coloury -Indicates useful depth of colour and strength.
  • Cream -A natural precipitate obtained as the liquor cools down.
  • Earthy -Normally caused by damp storage of tea but can also describe a taste that is sometimes 'climatically inherent' in teas from certain regions.
  • Flat -Not fresh, usually due to age. Tea tends to lose its characteristics and taste with age, unlike some wines which mature with age.
  • Flavour -A most desirable extension of character caused by slow growth at high altitudes. Relatively rare.
  • Fruity -Can be due to over-fermenting during manufacture and/or bacterial infection before firing or drying, which gives the tea an over ripe taste. Unlike wines this is not a desirable taste in tea.
  • Full -A good combination of strength and colour.
  • Green -When referring to black tea liquor denotes an immature 'raw' character. This is mostly due to under fermenting and sometimes to under withering during manufacture.
  • Hard -A very pungent liquor, a desirable quality in tea.
  • Heavy -A thick, strong and coloured liquor with limited briskness.
  • High-Fired -Over fired or dried, but not bakey or burned.
  • Light -Lacking strength and depth of colour.
  • Malty -Desirable character in some Assam teas. A full, bright tea with a malty taste.
  • Muscatel -Desirable character in Darjeeling teas. A grapey taste.
  • Point -A bright, acidic and penetrating characteristic.
  • Pungent -A stringent with a good combination of briskness, brightness and strength.
  • Quality -Refers to 'cup quality' and denotes a combination of the most desirable liquoring qualities.
  • Taint -Characteristic 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 colour and strength.
  • Woody -A grass or hay taste associated with teas that have been under withered during manufacture and sometimes referred to as 'woody.'

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