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Capital Teas: Home > The (Non-Pretentious) Tea Tasting Guide
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.

Umami: Savory

Vegetal: Strong green, chlorophyll flavor.

Woody: Earthy

Zesty: Vibrant and bright. Usually slightly tart.