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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