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About Tea

About Tea


TEA TASTERS LINGO: Terms used to describe the liquor of tea.

  • Autumnal - A seasonal term applied to teas grown during the period.
  • Bakey - Unpleasant taste caused by excessive temperatures during the firing process resulting in a loss of moisture.
  • Body - A liquor possessing fullness/richness and strength.
  • Bright
  • Brisk - A "live" taste in the liquor vs. flat or soft.
  • Burnt - An undesirable note in teas that have been exposed to excessive heat during processing.
  • Character - An intangible quality in a tea that identifies its origin of growth.
  • Color - A measure of the depth of the tea's physical color. Based on season/growth/grade factors.
  • Cream - The "cloudiness" one notices upon the cooling down of brewed tea. A bright color denotes quality.
  • Dry - Slightly bakey or high fired. Once again, a quality that denotes an over-processed tea.
  • Flat - Usually a symptom of old or improperly stored tea. The briskness of the brew is lacking.
  • Full - A term used to describe a full-bodied tea with color and strength. Treasure these!!


  • Attractive - Quality made with uniform color and size leaf.
  • Bold - Pieces of leaf that are too big for the grade it's in.
  • Chunky - A tea that possesses large sized tips-something to look for!!
  • Cut - A method of leaf production that utilizes a "breaker" as opposed to a "roller" AKA: Orthodox method.
  • Even - A grade of tea that is comprised of equal sized pieces of leaf.
  • Flaky - A flat, open leaf which has been improperly withered and rolled.
  • Golden Tip - A quality to look for in a tea. This denotes proper withering and rolling.
  • Grainy -Well made hard leaf.
  • Large - Pertaining to leaf grade/size. Applies to a leaf that is too large for its grade.
  • Make - To have "make" is a desirable quality to have if you're a tea. This means you have been properly processed.
  • Milled - This applies to tea that is cut and ground with a cutter machine. (Oh, the agony of the leaf!!)
  • Mixed - Teas that have other grades of teas added to them.
  • Neat - Similar to "make"..... a desirable quality: a well made tea that has an attractive quality.
  • Ragged - Rough an un-even leaf.
  • Shotty - Well-made and rolled ......... usually applies to Orthodox teas.
  • Small - A grade of tea that has a smaller size leaf than it normally has.
  • Stalky - A by-product of sloppy plucking-excessive amount of tea plant stalk is visible.
  • Stylish - Neat with premium quality leaf apparent.
  • Twist - When referring to whole leaf teas, the leaf has a "rolled" appearance denoting careful processing.
  • Well-Made - All is well here!! Beautiful color of the leaf, even texture and size.......

TEA TASTERS LINGO: Terms used to describe the infusion:

  • Mouldy - This denotes an old improperly stored tea or one that has been exposed to moisture/water.
  • Musty - Also pertaining to mould
  • Old - Flavor/palette lost to age.
  • Pungent - Very brisk- look for this!!
  • Strength - A "presence" of body in the mouth.
  • Thin - Teas lacking in body that have been over withered and/or inadequate fermentation.
  • Wild - An undesirable quality usually found in end-of- season teas. A harshness/thinness is apparent.
  • Bright - A cup displaying a "liveliness"- as opposed to dull and lifeless.
  • Coppery - This term describes the color of the infused leaf- denotes quality.
  • Green - Typical of first flush- lacks depth. Generally an undesirable quality.
  • Dull - Lacking in sheen/lifeless. Not a good thing.......
  • Even -This term applies to a bright, coppery tea that has no un -evenness in color.

More Tea Terms:

  • Assam - the world's largest black tea producing region, located in Northern India .Assam teas are best known for their pungent, malty qualities. Self drinkers, they can also stand up to milk and sugar.
  • Darjeeling - Translation: "Land of the Thunderbolt" This tea-growing region of India produces the "champagne" of teas. Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the volatile weather at 6000 ft above sea level can produce up to 16 ft. of rain during monsoon season. Hot days and cool nights during the growing season yields a glorious brew in at least 3 flushes.
  • Flushes - This term applies to the new growth of leaves and buds of the tea plant. There are usually 3 flushes on the average- some temperate regions with their year round hot weather can produce up to 10 flushes.
  • Orthodox- Tea was processed this way for centuries, by hand, with great care. Some of today's great teas are still produced in this manner.
  • CTC- "CUT-TORN-CRUSHED" In the name of efficiency, this mechanized method of harvesting the leaf replaced the kinder, gentler orthodox method sometime early in the 20th century.
  • Camellia Sinensis - A relative to the common garden variety Camellia, the top few leaves (and sometimes bud) of only this plant (some hybrids do exist) are what "tea" is comprised of. If it doesn't originate from this plant- it is not "tea". Allowed to grow on its own accord, the tea plant, a member of the evergreen family, will reach heights of 60 feet. As a tea bush it is usually kept pruned to heights of no more than 3-5 feet. This one plant produces black, green, and oolong teas. Processing the leaf is what makes different tea varieties.
  • Withering - A process that removes moisture from the freshly plucked leaf. The leaves are spread on trays in a cool room for a period of 24hrs. The resulting leaf is soft and pliable and has lost about 50% of its weight. It is now ready for the next step
  • Rolling - Twisting the leaf bruises it while releasing enzymes that react to the air this chemical process is called oxidation .Twisted leaves make a better cup of tea by allowing the leaf to give up its essences slower, making the tea smoother and milder.
  • Fermentation - This process applies mostly to black teas. The withered and rolled leaves are again spread out on a table and allowed to ferment for up to 5 hrs. Oolongs for a lesser period, greens not at all. The longer the leaf ferments, the darker it becomes. This part of the processing alters the flavor of the tea, allowing the constituents of the tea to emerge, thus it is a critical step in achieving the ultimate "cuppa" tea.
  • Firing - This step merely involves heating the now fermented leaves to a constant temperature of 120F, thereby stopping the fermentation process. This is where black tea turns black and is just about 100% dry, maintaining only 2-3% of its original moisture content. Too much heat can produce a loss of flavor, color and aroma……..While this process is critical to the making of black teas, oolongs and green teas are fired as well, albeit for a shorter time.
  • Polyphenols - A component of tea, they account for approximately 30% of the soluble matter in tea. Modern science has learned that these compounds are potent cancer fighters, immune stimulants, as well as anti-oxidants making it one of the best things a human can put in their bodies. Take that Orange juice!!
  • Essential oils - Another component of tea, essential oils lend aroma and flavor to your favorite cup. Whole leaf teas maintain their essential oils, while excessive processing allows much of the oils to escape- thus a teabag with its fine cut is flat while a whole leaf tea is sublime!
  • Ceylon - This Island off the coast of India produces superb teas. Currently known as Sri Lanka, it was once known only for its coffee. In 1867, a Scotsman named James Taylor, planted 19 acres of tea plant seeds and well, the rest is history….
  • China - No discussion about tea is complete without mentioning China. Tea and China have have had a relationship well before the birth of Christ. There was a time when the Chinese had categorized over 8000 different types of tea. Today tea is grown in 18 regions, the majority of that being green tea. Chinese teas generally are sold by names that let the buyer know their origin and quality . Although mechanization has made some inroads into tea production, due to the huge workforce and a love of tea, handmade teas are still common place. With worldwide demand increasing for fine teas, China stands poised to increase market share. Tea is currently 3rd in China's exports,( but gaining ground )after silk and grain.

Tea Facts

Tea Production 1999

  • Sri Lanka #1 284 million kgs.
  • Kenya #2 271 million kgs.
  • India #3 206 million kgs.  Ireland –world’s highest per capita consumers of tea averaging 7lbs/head
  • 3-6 cups of tea per day are required to have an effect on the body—peak absorption of the polyphenols was detectable 60 min. after drinking tea and were excreted from the body 5-6 hours later.  
  • The tea plant can produce tea for over 100 years.

Caffeine and tea: based on 6 oz cups

  • Coffee: 60-180 mg
  • Black tea: 25-110 mg.
  • Oolong tea: 12-55 mg.
  • Green tea: 8-16 mg.

The tea bag was invented in 1908—by John Sullivan—a tea merchant, who decided to pass out his full leaf teas in a hand sewn sack as samples to potential customers...the idea took off-and here was born one of the most deleterious inventions in the world of tea lovers.

Grades of black tea:

  • OP—Orange Pekoe (designates leaf size—usually whole leaf or large cut)
  • BOP- Broken Orange Pekoe (finer than OP)
  • BOPI (a leaf cut that is larger than BOP but smaller than OP)
  • Fannings/Dust ( smallest cut—usually found in teabags)

Higher grades with lots of tips are graded thusly:

  • FOP: Flowery Orange Pekoe (tips –no flowers)
  • GFOP: Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • GBOP:Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
  • TGFOP:Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
  • TGBOP: Tippy Golden Broken Orange Pekoe
  • FTGFOP1: Fancy Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (super grade)
  • SFTGFOP1: Super Fancy Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (super grade)

Green Tea is graded in a using a different methods: the top grade teas are comprised of a bud and one leaf. Followed by a bud and 2 leaves, a bud and 3 leaves and so on....