A Glossary of Tea Terms
A is for
Aroma: A distinctive, pervasive, and usually pleasant smell.
- Assam: A black tea grown in the Northeast region of India. Assam is known for being strong and full-bodied with a robust flavor.
- Astringent: A tea tasting term indicating a pungent flavor caused by the presence of tannins.
B is for
- Black Tea: Tea derived from the plant Camelia Sinensis, most often sourced from China, East Asia, India and Sri Lanka. Black tea is characterized by the process of withering, rolling, oxidizing, and drying. It typically has the deepest color liquor and considered to have a higher caffeine content compared to white or green tea.
- Blend: A mixture of teas, flowers, herbs, and spices combined to achieve a specific flavor profile or taste.
- Body: A descriptive term indicating a tea that possesses the feeling of fullness in the mouth.
- Bright: A tea tasting term that indicates a lively flavor.
- Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP): An industry term used to describe a grade of tea where the leaves are broken to achieve a bolder flavor. Most often seen in Breakfast blends. (Orange, in this system, does not refer to the flavor or the fruit).
C is for
Camelia sinensis: A special kind of evergreen tree or bush whose leaves and buds are used to produce tea. There are two principal varieties that are used in modern tea cultivation, Camelia Sinensis Sinensis, and Camelia Sinensis Assamica.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee, and cacao plants. The average cup of tea contains approximately 40mg of caffeine.
- Ceylon Tea: Tea grown in Sri Lanka.
- Chai: Chai is the Indian word for tea; however it is commonly used around the world to indicate a blend of black tea and spices. Masala Chai often includes a mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and other spices.
D is for
Darjeeling: Tea sourced from the Darjeeling region in India. The region is located at the base of the Himalayan mountains, just to the west of Assam. Darjeeling tea is frequently called the “champagne of teas” and is characterized by its light hue and complex flavor.
- Dragonwell: Dragonwell tea, a literal translation from the Mandarin name Longjing, is one of the most popular Chinese teas. It is known for its high quality, so much so that during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912) it was given the status of “imperial tea.” It is characterized by a signature chestnut aroma and long-lasting aftertaste.
- Dull: A term describing a tea liquor color that is not clear or bright.
- Dust: The lowest grade of tea, consisting of the smallest particles of tea left over after the sorting process.
E is for
- English Breakfast: One of the most popular black tea blends, English Breakfast typically consists of teas from Assam and Sri Lanka. Mighty Leaf’s Organic Breakfast (our take on English Breakfast) is aromatic and brisk, with a robust, hearty finish. Organic Breakfast is a blend of black, broken grade (BOP) tea leaves from Assam, Nilgiri, and Rwanda.
- Estate: A plantation or garden where tea is grown.
F is for
- Fannings: A low grade of tea consisting of small pieces of tea that are left over from the sorting process. Fannings are a slightly higher grade than tea dust but are still considered one of the lowest grades of tea.
- Fermentation: A chemical transformation which alters the chemistry of tea leaves by exposing them to microbes. Fermentation typically mellows the taste of tea and reduces astringency and bitterness. The most famous type of fermented tea is pu’er.
- Fine: High quality tea.
- Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (FTGFOP): An industry term used to describe the highest quality grade of tea where the leaves are left whole and have many tips (Orange, in this system, does not refer to the flavor or the fruit).
- Flavor: Characteristic taste of tea.
- Flowery Orange Pekoe (FOP): An industry term used to describe a high-quality grade of tea where the leaves are left whole and have few tips. One of the highest grades of tea, consisting of a large leaf size and few tips (Orange, in this system, does not refer to the flavor or the fruit).
- Flush: Refers to the harvest season for teas. There are four major flushes (Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter). The first flush is defined as the very first plucking of a tea plant’s harvest season and is considered to be the optimal production time when the leaves are the youngest and most tender.
- Formosa: Tea grown on the island of Taiwan.
- Full: A strong tea with good color and no bitterness.
G is for
- Green Tea: Tea derived from the plant Camelia sinensis, most often sourced from China and Japan. Green tea is characterized by a process where heat is applied to stop oxidation, so the leaf retains its green color.
- Gunpowder: A form of Chinese green tea that has been rolled into a small round pellet.
H is for
- Herbal Tea: Also known as tisanes, herbal “teas” consistent of an infusion of herbs, spices, fruits, flowers, or other plants in hot or boiling water. Herbal teas are usually caffeine free and do not contain any actual tea leaves from the Camelia sinensis plant.
J is for
- Jasmine: Jasmine tea is scented using jasmine blossoms. Green tea is typically used as the base for jasmine-scented teas, such as Mighty Leaf’s Organic Spring Jasmine, Jasmine Downy Pearls, and Jasmine Fancy. The tea is harvested in the spring and held until late summer when the jasmine is in bloom.
K is for
- Keemun: A fine grade of black tea from China. It is a popular Chinese tea with complex character that may be slightly smoky or have notes of ripe plum.
L is for
- Lapsang Souchong: Black tea from China, Lapsang Souchong is a rich black tea made in the age-old tradition of slowly drying the leaves over burning pine that produces a unique, intensely smoky flavor.
- Light: Describes the color of tea liquor which lacks depth of color. It may also refer to the taste of the tea.
- Liquor: The liquid resulting from steeping tea leaves in water.
- Lot: teas offered under a single mark or serial number at any tea auction. Single or micro-lot teas from high end producers allow us to achieve distinctive, precise, and unique flavor profiles in our tea, such as the Tea & Company Fine Tea Collection of reserve lot teas by Mighty Leaf.
M is for
Matcha: Matcha is an elegant powdered Japanese green tea commonly used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. It is popular for its distinctive vegetal flavor and health benefits.
- Muscatel: A tea tasting term used to describe a flavor characteristic reminiscent of muscat grapes. It is considered a highly favorable characteristic, uniquely found in some Darjeeling teas.
N is for
- Nose: Connotes the aroma experienced when tea tasting.
O is for
- Oolong: A traditional Chinese tea, which undergoes a withering and oxidation process. Oolong’s oxidation level sits between green and black teas, being anywhere from 10%-80% oxidized. Oolongs vary widely in flavor.
- Orange Pekoe (OP): An industry term used to describe the main grade of tea where the leaves are left whole and have no tips. (Orange, in this system, does not refer to the flavor or the fruit).
P is for
Pan-fired: The process most widely utilized in China where the teas are heated and rolled in iron pans to stop the oxidation from occurring.
Pu’er: A fermented Chinese black tea, also known as Hei Cha, produced in the Yunnan province of China. The leaves may be pressed into unique discs or bricks. The Mighty Leaf Organic Ancient Trees Pu’er is pressed into a shape called Tuo Cha, or "bowl tea.” Pu’er (pronounced poe-are) can be aged and enjoyed for many years.
- Pungent: A tea tasting term describing a tea liquor with a marked briskness and an astringent effect, but without bitterness.
Q is for
- Quality: In the tea industry, teas are graded according to the quality and condition of the tea leaves. The quality is evaluated based on the size, appearance, and wholeness of the leaves.
R is for
- Rich: A tea tasting term that describes a tea with a high quality, thick liquor.
- Russian Caravan: Russian Caravan tea is not of Russian origin but is a blend in the tradition of the 19th century Russian tea trade. Mighty Leaf Russian Caravan tea is a blend of Chinese and Indian black teas with a smooth, smoky flavor.
S is for
- Scented Tea: Unlike flavoring or blending, scenting is a process where an aroma is imparted onto the tea leaves using smoke or flowers such as jasmine, magnolia, or rose. The flowers are removed at the end of the process, and the tea retains an intoxicating aroma.
- Sencha: A popular Japanese green tea, Sencha is a whole tea characterized by a vegetal, almost grassy flavor.
- Smoky: A tea tasting term that describes an aroma or flavor of smoke.
- Strength/Strong: A tea tasting term that describes an intensity of flavor, color, and aroma.
T is for
- Tannin: Chemical compounds frequently found in many species of plants, including tea. Tannins are known for their beneficial health properties and contribute to flavors of astringency in tea.
- Tea: An aromatic beverage derived from the infusion of tea leaves (from the plant Camelia sinensis) usually using hot or boiling water.
Tip: The leaf bud of the plant Camelia sinensis, visually striking because of the fine downy hairs that cover it.
- Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP): An industry term used to describe a high-quality grade of tea where the leaves are left whole with a high proportion of tips (Orange, in this system, does not refer to the flavor or the fruit).
- Tisane: Also known as herbal “tea,” tisanes are an infusion of herbs, spices, fruits, or other plans usually in hot or boiling water. Herbal tisanes are typically caffeine free and do not contain any tea leaves from the Camelia sinensis plant.
W is for
- White Tea: A style of tea that traditionally utilizes Camelia sinensis buds (youngest growth) and has the least amount of processing. The term white tea has developed over time to include any tea that is plucked and dried with no rolling or oxidation process, though some oxidation may occur naturally.
Withering: A step in the processing of tea where the leaves are allowed to wilt after plucking to make them more malleable. The tea is then easier to roll, twist, and curl without completely breaking the leaves.