The Ultimate Chinese Tea Glossary

BO SUN

Posted on March 16 2018

The Ultimate Chinese Tea Glossary

With so many different types of Teas and the complex terminology used to describe the taste and characteristics of Tea, it can be difficult keeping up with all the jargon.  It’s thought that the UK drinks 165 million cups of Tea a day - there are hundreds of different types of Tea, and China is the largest Tea producer in the world, producing an average of 2,230,000 tonnes a year. At Capacitea we’re passionate about Chinese Tea, and have put together a glossary of Tea terminology so that you can stay informed.

A

Antioxidant

A molecule found in many types of Tea that stops the oxidation and chemical reaction that produces free radicals, causing a chain reaction and damages cells.


Aroma

The smell that is given off in cupping Teas is referred to as an aroma. A good aroma is often associated with a tasty and flavourful Tea.


Assam

Assam Tea is a black Tea that was initially produced in Assam, India. It is traditionally used in Yunnan province in China.


Astringent

If the Tea smells and/or tastes pungent and leaves a ‘dry’ taste in the mouth, this is described as ‘astringent’.

B

Baggy

Baggy describes a Tea that has an undesirable taint, often because the Tea is withered on an inferior hessian or kept in sacks.


Bai Mudan

Bai Mudan is a type of white Tea grown in the Fujian Province of China.


Bai Chai

Bai Chai is the Chinese symbol for White Tea.


Baihao Yinzhen

Baihao Yinzhen is a white Tea that is usually produced in the Fujian Province in China.


Bakey

Bakey describes an unpleasant taste in a Tea that has had a higher temperature during processing than is desired.


Bancha

Bancha is a domestic Japanese Tea made from course leaves.


Biluochun

Biluochun is a Green Tea that is grown in the Dongting Mountain region near Jiangsu, China


Bite

A desirable trait that describes a Tea that tastes ‘alive’ and brisk.


Bright

A lively Tea with a yellowish or reddish colour.


Black Tea

Black Teas are a common grade type of Japanese and Chinese Tea. A black Tea is the most processed of all Teas because of the way that it is oxidised and fermented. Black Tea is the most popular Tea consumed in the world, and accounts for approximately 80% of all Tea consumption.


Blend

The blend describes the proportions of each different Tea required to produce the flavour(s) of a Tea blend.


Brisk

Brisk is used to describe the taste of a Tea that isn’t flat or soft.


Brick Tea

Brick Tea is a block of finely ground black Tea, green Tea, white Tea or any other Tea leaves. Brick Tea is also another word for compressed Tea, lumps of Tea or cakes of Tea.

C

Caddy

A Caddy is a jar or tin that stores Tea. Caddy comes from the Chinese word ‘catty’ - a word that describes the weight of one pound of Tea.


Camellia sinensis

Camellia sinensis is an evergreen shrub, and the botanical name for a Tea bush.


Caffeine

Caffeine is found in Tea, and is a component that stimulates the nervous system. A cup of Tea has an average of 40 milligrams of caffeine.


Catechins

A catechin is a crystalline compound that is found in pu-erh Tea. It is a natural phenol and antioxidant.


Caravan Tea

Caravan Tea describes the transportation method when Tea was taken from China to Russia on Camels.


Ceylon Tea

Ceylon Tea is a popular black Tea produced in Sri Lanka.


Cha

The Chinese character for Tea.


Chai

The Indian word for Tea. Chai Tea is also a black blend of Tea containing cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.


Chun Mee

Chun Mee is a Chinese Green Tea that has an acidic taste. It is produced in the Jiangxi province of China.


Cloning

Cloning refers to the cuttings from old Tea bushes that are re-planted to grow new Tea bushes.


Congu

Congu is a Black Chinese Tea variety that was used by 19th century Tea importers. It was used as the base of the 19th century English Breakfast blend.

D

Da Hong Pao Tea

Da Hong Pao Tea is a dark Oolong Tea that’s grown in the Wuyi Mountains in the Fujian Province of China.


Darjeeling Tea

Darjeeling Tea is a type of Black Tea grown in the Darjeeling region of India.


Dianhong Tea

Dianhong is a gourmet Chinese black Tea grown in the Yunnan Province of China.


Dragon Well Tea

Dragon Well Tea is a popular Chinese Tea with a chestnut aroma and a long lasting aftertaste. Dragon Well is the literal translation from the Mandarin word ‘Longjing’, which is what the Tea is also known as.


Dull

Dull describes a Tea that is not bright in colour or clear.


Dust

The word used to describe small particles of Tea leaves.

E

Earthy

Earthy is an unfavourable characteristic used to describe Tea that’s been stored in damp conditions.


English Breakfast

English Breakfast Tea was traditionally a blend of Chinese Keemun Tea. Now the English Breakfast blend references full bodied Ceylon and Indian Teas.


Estate

An estate refers to a plantation or garden where Tea is grown.

F

Fannings

A fanning is a small Tea leaf that is larger than dust.


Fermentation

Fermentation is used to describe the processing for Oolong and Black Teas. The actual chemical transformation for these Teas is oxidation.


Fine

Fine describes a Tea of high quality.


Flavour

Flavour describes the characteristics, tastes and aromas of a Tea.


Flavonoids

A flavonoid is a secondary metabolite found in plants and fungus, and in Tea Bushes.


Flowering Tea

Flowering Tea (also known as Blooming Tea) is Tea that is made from a bundle of dried leaves wrapped around one or more dried flowers.


Flowery Orange Pekoe

Flowery Orange Pekoe is an industry term that describes a high quality Tea that is left whole and has few tips.


Flush

Flush describes the timing of the Tea harvest. The first flush happens in early Spring, with the plucking of new shoots. The second flush is harvested late spring through early summer, giving more body and full flavour. The Autumnal flush is the late season harvest.


Free Radicals

An uncharged molecule that is highly reactive and short lived. It has been linked to cell damage in the body.


Full

A full-bodied Tea is strong, has good colour and is not bitter.

G

Garden

A garden refers to an estate where Tea is grown.


Golden Tip

The golden tip is when the buds of the Tea Leaf turns gold during processing. This is a desirable feature.


Gone off

Gone off is a phrase used by the Tea industry, and refers to Tea that is not good because it is old, moldy, or tainted.


Grainy

Grainy refers to well-made Tea Fannings and dust.


Green

Green is used to describe unpleasant astringency, because the Tea hasn’t been withered or fermented for long enough.


Green Tea

Green Tea is a Tea made from Camellia sinensis leaves and has not undergone the same withering and oxidation process as oolong or black Tea.


Gunpowder Tea

Gunpowder Tea is a type of Green Tea that’s been rolled into pellets.

H

Hard

Hard is a desirable quality that describes pungency. Most commonly used when discussing Assam Teas.  


Harsh

Harsh describes a bitter tasting Tea that was plucked before it was ready.


Heavy

Heavy describes a Tea that isn’t brisk but very strong.


Herbal Infusion

A herbal infusion or herbal Tea is a Tea with a mixture of herbs, but doesn’t contain any Tea leaves.


High Tea

High Tea is a a mixture of Tea and dinner, served in the late afternoon or early evening. High Tea was the main meal for working families across the UK, which is where the word ‘Tea’ referring to the one meal in the evening comes from.


Huángchá Tea

Yellow Tea that has the same process as Green Tea but the process requires extra steps.


Hungry

Hungry describes a Tea that is lacking in quality


Hyson

Also known as Lucky Dragon Tea, Hyson is a green Tea originating from the Anhui province of China.

I

Imperial Tea

Imperial Tea is a refreshing, aromatic rolled Green Tea from Ceylon, China, or India. It is made from older Tea leaves.


Infusion

Infusion describes the process of withdrawing the elements from a Tea leaves, herbs, fruits and berries. Predominantly used for medicinal purposes.


Instant Tea

Instant Tea is a Tea that was developed in the 1930's and commercialised in the 1950’s. , Instant Tea lacks nuances in fragrance and flavour in return for convenience.

J

Jasmine Tea

Jasmine Tea is the base for Chinese Green Tea, The finest Chinese Jasmine is called Yin Hao and Chun Hao.


Jin Jun Mei Tea

Jin Jun Mei is a Lapsang Souchong Black Tea originating from Wuyishan City, Fuijian Province, China.

K

Keemun

Keemun is a Black Tea from China. It has a fine grade and is a dark amber colour.


Kukicha Tea

Kukicha is a Tea that is made from the twigs and stems from Tea plants.  Kukicha can been green or roasted. It lacks in quality compared to loose leaf Tea.


Kuding Tea

Kuding is a traditional bitter tasting Chinese Tea infusion. Kuding or kǔdīng chá; literally translates to ‘bitter nail Tea’.

L

Lapsang Souchong

Lapsang Souchong is a Chinese black Tea that has a distinctive smokey flavour, due to its unique drying process. It’s a bit like marmite - you either love it or you hate it.


Light

Light describes a Tea that is rather thin and lacking depth of color but is still flavourful or pungent or both.


Lot

Lot describes all Teas offered under a single mark or serial number at any Tea industry auction.


Lǜchá

The Chinese symbol for Green Tea,


Lung Ching or Longjing Tea

Also known as Dragon Well Tea.

M

Mao Feng Tea

Mao Feng Teas are grown in the Huangshan mountain range in Anhui Province.


Metallic

Describes Tea that has an undesirable metallic taste.


Moldy

Moldy is an undesirable trait that gives off moldy taste and odor due to poor storage.


Muddy

A term that describes a Tea that is dull or lifeless.


Mushy

A term that describes a Tea that has been packed when it is too moist.

N

New

New describes a Tea that hasn’t had enough time to mellow.


Nose

Nose is an industry term used to describe the good aroma of Tea.

O

Old

Old describes Tea that has lost attributes it originally possessed due to age.


Oolong Tea

Oolong Tea is a traditional Chinese Tea that is made through the process of withering a plant under strong sun before it is curled and twisted.


Orange Pekoe

Orange Pekoe is a term used to describe a large leaf size. Orange Pekoe leaves are long, thin and wiry with white or yellow tips.


Organoleptic

Organoleptic is the process used by most Tea industry tasters to evaluate the quality of a Tea using all five senses.

P

Pekoe

The term used to describe Tea leaves that are shorter and not as wiry as Orange Pekoe.


Phenol

Phenol is an aromatic organic compound.


Ping Suey

Ping Auey is a Black Tea from the Hangchow district of Zhejiang Province. In Chinese the term means ice water.


Plain

Plain describes a clean Tea that is innocuous but lacks character.


Point or pointy

Point or pointy is a desirable brisk pungent characteristic in Tea.


Pouchong Tea

Pouchong is a fragrant Tea, and used as a base for making Jasmine Tea. A Tea of the finest quality and high in price.


Pu’er Tea

Pu'er or pu-erh Tea is a form of fermented Tea produced in Yunnan province, China.


Pungent

Pungent is a term that describes a Tea that has briskness and an astringent taste, without any bitterness.

Q

Quality

Quality discusses the prevalence of desirable attributes that are essential characteristics for a good Tea.

R

Rainy

Rainy is used to describes a dull plain Tea manufactured during the rainy season.


Rich

Rich describes a mellow Tea that is abounding in quality and thickness.


Roughness

A  term used to connote harshness in a Tea.


Russian Caravan

A blend of Chinese Black Teas. Although there is little consistency between available blends in the marketplace.


Russian Tea

Russian Tea is the name for hot Tea poured into a glass over a slice of lemon.  Sometimes sugar or honey are added.

S

Sappy

Sappy is used to describe a Tea that has a full and juicy flavor.


Scented Tea

Scented Teas are are put in close proximity with various flowers or spices under controlled temperature and humidity conditions for 4 hours and then re-fired, after processing.


Self-drinking

Self-drinking describes an original Tea that doesn’t require blending before being consumed.


Semi-Fermented Tea

Sem-fermented Tea is Tea that has been partially oxidised before being fired and dried.  Often yields a citrus or fruity flavor depending on the masters craft and skill. Usually classed as a green or black Tea.


Silver Tip Pekoe Tea

Silver Tip Pekoe Tea is an expensive Tea from China. It is made from full-grown buds of a special Tea bush. This Tea is also known as White Tea.


Silvery Oolong

Silvery Oolong is an expensive Tea that uses the delicate whitish leaf from the first flush.


Smokey

Smokey describes an odor or taste of smoke, with is usually caused by a defect in the drier.


Souchong

Souchong is a find black variety of Chinese Tea


Soft

Soft describes a Tea that is under fermented or oxidized.


Sour

Sour is an industry term describes an undesirable acidic odor and taste.


Spicy

A Tea that has character suggestive of cinnamon or cloves. In some cases this is due to contamination.


Stalk

A Tea with visible stalk.


Standing up

Standing up is used to describe Tea that holds its original color and flavour.


Stand-out

A Tea that is above average.


Stewed

Stewed describes certain thick Teas with undesirable characteristics due to incorrect firing.


Strength

Strength describes a Tea that has powerful Tea characteristics, but are not as thick. Strength is desirable characteristic but not essential.

T

Tainted

Tainted is an undesirable characteristic where the Tea has a foreign odor or taste.


Tannin

A Tannin is an astringent, polyphenolic biomolecule chemical component that is thought to have many health benefits. Contributes to the taste and pungency of Tea.


Tarry

Describes a Tea with a smoky aroma.


Tea

The drink made from the The leaf of the shrub Camellia sinensis.


Thick

Describes a Tea with substance, but not necessarily strength.


Thin

Thin describes a Tea lacking in thickness or strength.


Tieguanyin

A premium variety of oolong Tea. Originated from Anxi, the Fuijian Province of China.


Tisane

An industry term that describes an herbal Tea infusion.


Toasty

Used to describe a Tea that is slightly over-fired during processing.

W

Weathery

Weathery is a term used to describe a soft, unpleasant characteristic of a Tea, and usually occurs when a Tea is processed during very wet weather.


Weak

A Tea that is very thin in its liquid form.


Well twisted

Well twisted describes a tightly rolled or twisted Tea leaf, which is indicative of good withering.


White Tea

White Tea is a young and rare Tea that os made from young or minimally processed Camellia sinensis leaves. Of a fine quality and rare.


Wiry

Wiry describes a well twisted Tea leaf.


Woody

Woody is a characteristic of Tea that reminiscent of freshly-cut timber. Usually associated with Teas processed very late in the season.


Wuyi rock Tea

Wuyi rock Tea is a type of black and oolong Tea grown in the Wuyi Mountains of Northern Fuijian, China.

Y

Yellow Tea

Yellow Tea is less fragrant than Green Tea. It is the Chinese huángchá Tea.


Yixing

A city in Eastern China that is world renowned for their clay Teapots. Located near Shanghai.


Yunnan

Yunnan Province is the most southwest region of China and borders Vietnam, Laos, and Burma.


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