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Tea Glossary

Tea-minology - all you need to know when tasting tea.

The world of tea has a whole language unto itself. Twinings master blenders spend hours and hours making sure each and every sip is perfection. And as people’s taste palates are becoming ever more sophisticated, we’ve created a glossary of tea terms to help.

You probably already know how to describe the notes in your glass of wine, but with the world of tea opening up, we’re here to help you navigate the exciting terrain of tea.

So far, ten incredibly passionate generations of the Twinings family have been challenging the status quo of tea. The creation of our famous English Breakfast tea, the invention of the Earl Grey blend, being the very first to import green tea and the invention of herbal infusions were all important milestones along the way.

Let's find out more about all the different ways in which our quality teas are evaluated, sniffed, smelled, slurped… and how we describe the different tea sensations.

TEA TERMS

Tea

All Tea is plucked from the Camellia Sinensis plant – depending on what time of year, how it is then treated, oxidized or not gives each tea its unique name, flavour and character and determines whether it is a black, green, yellow or white tea.

Blend

Put simply, blends are a 
mixture of teas usually from different 
origins. Twinings Everyday Tea blends strong African and Indonesian teas, with the rich malty taste of Assam as well as rare tea from Yunnan to create a unique taste. Creating a blend is 
an art form, which comes only from years of knowledge and expertise of being a blender. Every harvest is different and ultimate blending skills are required in order to make sure your favourite blend always tastes as amazing as you'd expect.

Brew

This is the alchemical magic when boiling water meets your tea leaves. Our master blenders always include detailed instructions on the brewing time, allowing the tea to steep in the water for the perfect brew.

Cracker

Not to be confused with a biscuit or the Christmas bangers this tea term refers to a tip top harvest of tea. Similar to a vintage year in wine terms, a cracker tea harvest is something to get really excited about – being the best tea our master blenders will have tasted in years.

Estate

The place where tea is grown is on an ‘estate’. We are passionate about tea from plant to cup and have been working with some of our tea estates around the world since the early 18th Century. 

Flush

Flush refers to the timing of the tea harvest. So we have the first flush in early spring and if you want the Dom Perignon of the tea world, Twinings master blenders recommend Twinings First Flush Darjeeling.

Grading

Tea needs the same attention to quality and detail as diamonds. The grading system ensures tea leaves are sifted and searched through to ensure the highest quality. We look at leaf size, shape and colour and more. ‘Special’ refers to the better quality and ‘common’ refers to lower quality grading 1-7.

High Tea

No doubt you’ve enjoyed many an afternoon tea, but what about a high tea? Becoming more popular, this is served in late afternoon to early evening and is a mixture of afternoon tea and dinner.

Liquor

Sounds alcoholic, but this type of liquor will not get you tipsy. Another word for the water after brewing with tea leaves has occurred.

Organoleptic

A sensational word for a sensational process. It refers to the way that our master blenders evaluate the quality of a tea using ALL of their senses. Taste, touch, looks and smell.

Slurping

Our blenders “slurp” (sipping being far too boring) to get the full impact and unlock the entirety of the taste and flavour of a tea.

TEA TYPES

Black

The traditional and arguably most recognisable tea found in all sorts of varieties from your English Breakfast to your Earl Grey, black tea is fully oxidised which gives it its dark appearance.

Green

Probably the original tea to be imported into the UK, Green Tea is gently heated as soon as the leaves are plucked to prevent oxidisation, giving it the warming vegetal flavour we know and love.

Oolong

Half way between a green and a black, Oolongs are special, partially oxidised teas; a real speciality amongst tea lovers.

Pu'Erh

Vintage teas grown in Yunnan province in China, Pu’erhs have a woody, earthy character acquired over an aging and maturing process. The best of these teas can sell for thousands of pounds.

White

One of the purest teas we have, White Tea is made from a leaf, which is simply dried but not left to oxidise. This means that the leaves hold the most natural elements of the plant and are rich in antioxidants. Considered the crème de la crème of tea.

Yellow

Among China’s rarest tea, Yellow tea has a pale yellow liquor, a sweet honeyed flavour and fresh aftertaste.

LOOK

Body

Describes tea liquor possessing fullness and strength.

Bright

A lively tea, usually with a red liquor.

Coppery

Associated with high quality black teas resulting from good manufacturing processes. Refers often to a wet leaf tea infusion that looks like the colour of a new penny.

Golden Tip

A desirable feature resulting from good harvesting practices. Golden tips are the unopened buds from the tea bush.

Gunpowder

Don’t worry; the only explosion we’re referring to here is the one that will happen on your tiny taste buds. This term simply refers to the look of green tea leaves that have been rolled into pellets. The pellets unfurl gently in hot water when brewed. Delight your taste buds by trying Twinings Ginpowder Green & Mint tea.

Rich

This is mellow liquor which is abounding in quality and thickness of flavour. Our Liquorice Infusion is a great example.

SMELL

Aroma

A vitally important consideration in cupping teas is the smell which is given off. A favourable aroma is most often associated with a flavourful taste.

Nose

You use it to smell with and Twinings Master Blenders and flavour experts have the best noses in town, but put simply, it’s another term for the aroma of brewed tea. If it has a good nose, then it has great quality.

Tarry

Refers to the wonderful smoky aroma of some teas such as the Twinings Lapsang Souchong.

Woody

Exactly what it says on the tin, 
imagine you’re in the woods of 
Sherwood Forest, and that’s how
 your tea will smell. A characteristic reminiscent of freshly cut timber. 
This trait is usually associated with 
teas processed very late in the season. For example Twinings Green tea or Twinings Yunnan tea.

TASTE

Flavour

Our master blenders’ taste buds are the most finely honed in the world and they have created coding wheels to describe the flavours of our teas.

They will use these categories to describe the different tastes and flavours: Vegetal, Fruity, Floral, Sweet, Spicy, Nutty and Smokey. Within these categories, they use a plethora of words to describe the sub-categories of different flavour notes, for example:

  • Berries
  • Citrus
  • Earth: peat, wet wood, leather, wet earth, musty, moss, forest floor, compost
  • Grass: freshly cut, straw etc.
  • Mineral: salt, wet, rocks, metallic
  • Marine: sea air, fish, seaweed,
  • Smoky, Ash, Tar

The list goes on and on. As you can tell – our blenders like to get as precise as possible.

Full Bodied

Refers to strong tea with good colour and no bitterness. Our Master Blenders say it’s recognisable due to its good drying sensation in the mouth. A 'full' tea would possess thickness and body like Twinings English Breakfast.

Bite

Of course you don’t eat tea, you slurp it! This is a term used to describe very brisk and "alive" tea liquor. If it has a good strong bite, it is a desirable tea, just like Twinings Lemon and Ginger tea.

Biscuity

This is not a term for when you’ve dipped your favourite chocolate digestive into your tea. It is in fact a desirable trait that
 our Master Blenders look out for and usually refers to a well-made Assam.

Croppy

Croppy describes a bright, strong and creamy liquor with a distinctive character; it’s basically the Rachel Riley of teas. Croppy liquor is usually found in some second flush Assams.

Hard

A desirable quality suggesting pungency, particularly applied to Assam teas.

Muscatel

One for wine lovers. A characteristic reminiscent of grapes in the liquor. Often found in the finest second flush Darjeeling.

Pungent

Most people think of pungent as referring to a bad smell, but in the tea world, if your tea is pungent, it’s a good quality tea. It’s a term for a tea liquor which although is brisk and astringent it’s something that Twinings Master Blenders look out for as it’s a very desirable cup characteristic.

Sappy

Tea fans might get a little sappy over our best blends, we know they taste great. But when describing tea liquor it actually means one which has a full juicy flavour.

ORIGINS

These are the exotic and far flung lands from where your tea is lovingly grown and harvested.

China

Keemun, Lapsang, Oolong

India

Assam, Chai, Darjeeling, Nilgiri 

Indonesia

Java, Sumatra

Japan

Gyokuru, Sencha

Sri Lanka

Ceylon

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