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Tea Glossary
Agony of the leaves:

The unfurling of tea leaves during steeping. Certain teas provide a spectacular show if steeped in a glass container.


A major tea-producing province in China.

Antioxidant: A compound which retards oxidation.
Aroma: Also known as the nose, the odor of the brewed leaf and the resulting liquor.
Assam: A major tea growing region in India. These black teas are known for their strong malty flavor.


The drying sensation (or bite) in the mouth caused by certain teas.
Autumnal: Tea produced late in the growing season; often used in reference to Darjeeling 4th flush teas.
Bergamot: A citrus oil derived from the bergamot orange used to flavor black tea to make Earl Grey tea.
Black Tea: Fully oxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Black teas are the most popular tea in the world and are also known as Red tea in China referring to the color of the infusion in the cup.

Method to establish consistency between lots of teas.


Tea taster's term to denote strength and viscosity of a brewed tea.

Brick Tea: Tea leaves that have been steamed and compressed into bricks. Pu-erh is a common brick tea.
Caffeine: An alkaloid which acts as a Central Nervous System stimulant and diuretic.
Catechins: The class of polyphenol found in tea which function as antioxidants.
Ceylon tea: Tea from Sri Lanka.
Cha: Romanized spelling of Chinese and Japanese character which defines the word tea.
Chai: The word for tea on the Indian subcontinent. In the west it generally means a spiced black tea made with milk (masala chai).
Chest: Traditional container made of wood with a metal lining used to ship tea from tea estates.
Chesty: A term denoting an odor in tea absorbed from the wood of a traditional storage chest.
Chunmee: A grade of Chinese tea with a curled form.

Chinese Black, or Red, Tea.

Ctc: Acronym for Cut, Tear, and Curl, a machine process which cuts the withered leaves into uniform particles to facilitate a complete oxidation. Typical of most black tea grown in India and other lowland producing countries, and used in teabags to create a stronger more colorful tea.
Darjeeling Tea: Tea grown in the Darjeeling Hills of India. These teas are renowned for their muscatel flavor.
Display Tea: A tea that has a special appearance once steeped.
Dust: The smallest grade of tea, typically associated with lower quality. Dust is prized for its quick extraction and is commonly used in teabags.
Earl Grey: Traditionally, black tea blend flavored with bergamot oil; named for the 2nd Earl of Grey, Charles Grey (1764-1845)
Fannings: Small particles of tea one grade larger than Dust produced as a by product of the tea making process.
Fermentation: More properly termed – Oxidation. Describes the process of enzymic oxidation, where elements in the leaf react with air to create a darker brown-red color and characteristic aroma to the resulting tea.
Firing: The process whereby the tea leaves are dried to arrest further enzymatic changes. This makes the tea fit for packing and storing.
Flush: Flush refers to the four separate plucking seasons throughout the year, each known for its distinctive flavor.
Formosa Teas: Tea produced in Taiwan, typically oolong teas.
Gaiwan: [GUY-wan] A traditional Chinese lidded tea drinking vessel with accompanying saucer.
Genmaicha: [GEN-my-cha] Green tea blended with roasted rice.
Golden: Refers to the orange colored tips present in high quality black tea
Gong Fu: Meaning skill and patience (it's the same "kung fu" as the martial art). The style of brewing tea with a high proportion of leaf to water and repeated short infusions.
Green Tea: Unoxidized tea, mostly found in China and Japan. Gunpowder: A Green Tea rolled into tight pellets.
Gyokuro: [G'YOH-koo'roh] Translates to ‘Jade Dew’; a Japanese green tea made from shaded plants.
Hyson: A general term for Chinese green teas.
Jasmine: Green or Oolong Tea scented with jasmine flowers.
Keemun: Chinese Black Tea from Anhui Province and often used in English Breakfast blends.

Lapsang Souchong: Chinese black Tea with a strong smoky characteristic imparted in the firing process.

Muscatel: A muscat grape like taste associated with many Darjeeling Teas.

Nose: The aroma of brewed tea.

Oolong: Derived from ‘wu long’ the Chinese term for black dragon. A type of tea that is semi-oxidized resulting in a brew that is between a Green and a Black Tea. These teas are renowned for their complex tastes and aromas.

Orange Pekoe: The larger leaves of the tea plant. Does not refer to flavor characteristics of any tea.

Orthodox: Traditional method for picking and processing teas in India without using CTC technology.

Pan fired: Method of heating leaf and arresting enzymic oxidation of tea.

Pekoe: [PECK-oh] A term used to describe the largest leaves used to produce whole leaf teas. Also refers to an un-distinctive blend of tea. Pronounced ‘pek-o’.

Plucking: The process of harvesting and collecting tea leaves.

Polyphenols: Antioxidant compounds present in tea.

Pu-erh Tea: [POO-urr] A type of tea originally from the Yunnan province of China. Tea that is further processed using an age old Chinese method. These teas are known for aging quite well. Some prized Pu-erhs are 40 years old.

Rolling: The process by which withered leaves are rolled to initiate enzymic oxidation.

Tea: The processed leaves, or the infused beverage brewed from the processed leaves, of the Camellia sinensis plant.

Ti Kuan Yin: [TAY-gwan-yen] "Iron Goddess of Mercy"- a type of Oolong Tea with a fragrant aroma. Also known as Tieguanyin.

Tippy: Term denoting tea that contains white or golden tips, indicative of high quality

Tisane: An infused beverage made with plants other than Camellia sinensis.

Tuocha: [too'oh-cha]Chinese for bowl tea. A common shape for pu-erh teas.

White: Similar to Green Tea. Identifiable by the presence of the white hairs on the leaf tips, and a light infusion. China known as the birthplace of tea. This region also produces Pu-Erh tea.

Winey: Mellow quality, characteristic of some Keemun teas which have been given six months to a year to age. Used in the gung fu style of brewing tea.
Withering: The operation which removes moisture from the recently plucked leaves making them less brittle and preparing them for further processing. Generally done by spreading leaves allowing the air to pass over.

Yixing: [YEE-shing] Pronounced ‘yee shing,’ a region of China noted for its purple clay, used to produce distinctive unglazed teapots often

Yunnan: A province in southwestern China
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