The (Non-Pretentious) Tea Tasting Guide
If you’re new to the world of tea, you may be overwhelmed by all of the adjectives used to describe a cup. Teas come in a wide variety of flavors. White teas like Silver Needle are light and smooth; Pu-erh tea is considered to have a deep, woody character.
The sensory exploration of taste focuses on subtleties that can be a bit hard to identify at first. You don’t have to learn a whole new language to enjoy tea! Below, we’ve compiled a glossary of tea tasting terms you might come across. It may come in handy when you’re selecting your next favorite tea!
Acerbic: Sharp and severe.
Acrid: Extremely bitter.
Astringent: Sharp flavor that dries out the mouth (like the inside of an orange rind.)
Bitter: Sharp and biting (like black coffee.)
Body: Rich, thick sensation on the tongue (think “buttery,” but only slightly.)
Brisk: Refreshing and crisp.
Buttery : Very rich and smooth. Not acrid, bitter, or sour.
Character: Specific flavor that identifies a tea.
Clean: Not bitter or astringent. Smooth.
Crisp: Tastes fresh!
Dulcet: Sweet and honey-like
Earthy: Tastes woody (think beets without the sweet.)
Fine: Particularly good.
Flat: Tastes old and stale.
Floral: Bright and light. Tastes how a flower smells!
Flowery: See floral.
Fruity: Has a natural sweetness.
Full: Similar to body. Has a strong flavor and a heavy quality.
Grassy: Tastes like chlorophyll! (Think dark leafy veg.)
Green: A milder taste of chlorophyll. Only hints of grassiness.
Heavy: Potent flavor.
Light: Very mild flavor.
Malty: Sweet, cereal-like flavor (think barley with a hint of molasses.)
Muscatel: A raisin-like sweetness (think muscat grapes! yum!)
Nose: Predominant smell and flavor character.
Notes: Different layers of flavor.
Nutty: Full-bodied and buttery flavor, usually reminiscent of chestnut.
Pungent: A very strong combination of flavors. (This is usually positive.)
Rich: Full-bodied. (See “full” or “body” above for reference.)
Round: Nice balance of notes.
Thick: Heavy texture (think milk or juice.)
Sharp: Can be sour, tart, or acidic.
Thin: Watery texture.
Vegetal: Strong green, chlorophyll flavor.
Zesty: Vibrant and bright. Usually slightly tart.