A Glossary of Tea Terms

A Tea Taster's Task

The tea industry employs people called tea tasters to evaluate their tea blends. It is not possible to chemically analyse tea as tea evaluation goes well beyond chemistry. The tea taster has to have a huge amount of knowledge and experience to evaluate both the taste and appearance of the tea.

In order to evaluate the tea the leaves are put into a mug, boiling water is then poured in and a lid placed on top. The tea is now left to brew for 6 minutes. The liquor is then poured into a bowl and the leaves placed on the lid to be examined.

The taster begins by assessing the dry leaf for its colour, amount of twist, evenness and so on. He then passes on to the infused leaf, from the appearance of which he will have a fairly accurate opinion of what the liquor will taste like.

Moving onto the brewed tea, the taster will judge the smell and colour of the liquid then draw the liquid into the back of his/her mouth with a loud sucking noise to get the liquid to the olfactory nerve of the nose, the liquid is then spat out (just like wine tasting). Later the taster will add milk to the liquor in order to check the colour.

In the tea industry there are a number of terms used to describe the tea being tasted. Here are a few: malty: a faintly desirable malt scent, coarse: not having the correct tea aroma, gone off: deteriorated, probably due to mould, burnt: tastes or smells burnt (caused by too high a firing), weedy: an undesirable hay-like aroma, bright: refers to the bright and clear colour of the liquor, brisk: lively taste with some pungency, smoky: some teas are actually valued for their smoky flavour, but if this flavour exists and shouldn't it could be due to faulty equipment, dull: the liquid is not bright and clear, tainted: the tea has an odd aroma, possibly by coming into contact with a strong smell (tea takes on other smells very easily), colour: a good colour will make a bright amber when milk is added.