An A to Z of tea

It takes up to seven years to become a fully-fledged tea taster, but with consumers expecting increasingly high standards out of home, knowing some of the theory behind tea is always useful. Swot up on blend lingo with Tetley Tea Academy’s glossary of tasting terms.


Aroma  The way a tea smells, its scent. This is said to be the most important aspect in the character of a tea 
Assam From the northeast of India, this strong black tea has a rich, robust flavour
Baggy A taint on the tea which arises from storage in poor quality bags
Bakey A tea which has been burnt during the firing process 
Body Rich, full and strong tea
Biscuity A tea that tastes like fresh bread and has toasty undertones. This delicious trait can often be found in a well-fired Assam
Bright When brewed, this tea should appear as full of colour. Tetley’s Black Tea has a characteristic bright red colour
Brisk The opposite of soft or flat, teas which can be described as brisk have a ‘live’ taste 
Ceylon The name given to tea from Sri Lanka
Coloury A good strength and depth of colour
Coppery High quality teas will boast a coppery colour once infused
Darjeeling A highly-desirable tea grown in the Himalayan mountain range
Dull A poor quality tea that does not look ‘bright’
Earthy If tea is stored somewhere damp, it can often take on this unfavourable taste
Firing This process involves heating the tea to stop the fermentation process. Black Tea is fired for longer than Green Tea
Flat A tea lacking flavour, perhaps due to its age
Flush The name given to new growth on the tea plant when it has produced the full range of tea leaves
Full Excellent colour and flavour
Garden A tea garden is the location in which tea is grown
Harsh A bitter tea which may have been prematurely plucked
High-fired Tea that has been fired for too long, but is not quite burnt
Jasmine Jasmine flowers are often added to Green Tea in China to scent it
Malty Assam teas taste well when ‘malty’
Muscatel Tea that reminds the taster of grapes. This excellent characteristic is found in tea of a high-quality second flush
Nose The smell of the dry tea leaves can be described in this way
Plain When used to describe tea, this signals a blend which is clean and mild but has little character
Soft Lacking any ‘bright’ characteristics, teas which are soft have been badly fermented or fired
Sparkle The way a tea looks when it has a clear, intense colour
Tarry A tea with an aroma described as ‘smoky’
Tainted When the flavour of a tea has been contaminated, perhaps due to improper storage
Weedy/Woody Teas which have been underwithered sometimes have a hay or grasslike flavour to them and so can be described in this way
Weathery This ‘soft’ flavour can be found in teas which have been produced during very wet periods
Zing An overall term used to describe how the taster perceives the balance of character and taste of the tea

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