Help! Can you describe what malty tastes like?

I’m trying to describe the flavor of the 2011 “Da Hong Pao” Wuyi Mount Chinese Oolong Tea I have just tasted all the while struggling with the proper words to use. It tastes somewhat like coffee: it’s got what seems to me to be a roasted, coffee-like flavor, and I was wondering if ‘malty’ would be one appropriate descriptor. I searched to web for a description of the malty taste in tea, but most of what I got is that it’s what you typically get with an Assam (as in the web page: ).

Although I am betting I have had an Assam before—-as I believe it’s a very common black tea base—-I don’t currently have one, and so I don’t know if ‘malty’ is a word to use to describe the taste of this tea?! Does anyone know how to put ‘that malty taste in tea’ into words?

And if you know of any good online resources, or books, that help describe flavors in tea, I would be most grateful!

Please help a writer in need!

27 Replies
Uniquity said

This may not help as I’ve never had a tea I consider malty, I think of a beer-esque hoppy sort of aspect when I read descriptions of tea that are “malty.”

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Hmm… have you ever tasted malt? Like the malt that one might put in a malted milkshake? It has a thick, somewhat creamy, baked-goods/bready/yeasty/grain-like taste to it. I think it is because it is so difficult to describe that I generally use the term “malty” when I experience it.

PS: also, like Uniquity stated, something like the beer taste – but more of the yeasty taste rather than the hop (which is an herb). Hope this helps.

Yes, that does help some. I am a beer drinker (I recently started brewing my own with a friend) and so I think I know what malty tastes like in beer (although I usually don’t drink anything considered to be malt liquor), but in tea? I definitely know what hoppy tastes like (I love really hoppy beers, like IPA’s), but I think malty is different. The way you described malty as “baked-goods/bready/yeasty/grain-like” conjures something I can at least somewhat wrap my mind and taste buds around. This makes me think that a ‘coffee like’ flavor is not what I would consider to be malty. ADDITION And this is somewhat confusing to me, because if Assams are purported to be one of the teas that most tastes like coffee, and since Assams are described as malty, and malty is described as “baked-goods/bready/yeasty/grain-like,” then, well, that last description doesn’t sound like coffee in any way. Interesting. So Assams tasting like coffee does not describe a straightforward/linear relationship. Things like that always throw me off! I can’t handle it. AHHHH!

Breathe. Just breathe.

OK. I’m OK now.

Thank you both of you for your help. : )

DaisyChubb said

Just jumping in on the malt boat, I think the “maltiness” (not a word) of Assam is what makes it taste un-like coffee. If that makes sense.

if the tea is said to taste like coffee, but it doesn’t taste exactly like coffee, I find it is that “malt” flavour that makes it unique

Also, look for malted milk balls in the candy section of a grocery store as you’re checking out!

teamax said

If you have made beer, you know what “malty” means. The smell of your house after boiling wort is powerful malty. You can also smell it walking into homebrew supply store where they have pounds of malted grain stored. Taste some malt extract from the homebrew store.

In the beer making process, barley is sprouted. The enzymes in the barley grains get to work breaking down the starches (which yeast can’t eat) into maltose (a sugar that yeast can eat). The grains are then dried to de-activate the enzymes and stop the process (sounding like anything else we know a lot about?). The grains are cracked and steeped in hot water to extract a solution of maltose (and a bunch of other molecules). This is the wort and it smells and tastes malty because it is full of maltose.

All that said, reviewers sometimes claim maltiness where I haven’t tasted it. I see from this thread that there are a lot of differing definitions of maltiness that seem to have grains in common.

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Dorothy said

Ever sniffed/tasted malt vinegar (fish n` chips stuff)? It has a strong malty aroma.

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K S said

When I think Assam tea, I think breakfast tea, bold and astringent. It doesn’t make me think coffee or beer. Malty doesn’t compute with me either. SimpliciTEA, when you get this figured out in your logical manner, please explain it to me in my chaotic ways.

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TheTeaGuy said

I think of barley-like notes, thick and rich smelling.

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notes are as such:

Grassy with vegetal (Matcha Green) like qualities
Roasted with robust flavoring would bring in Malt (barley-beer) like qualities or that smokiness in the flavoring of the cup.

I am no expert.

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Thank you all for your replies.

I had a tiny revelation about this. Daisy, your reply helped me here. When I was able to go back to at least one source of where I got my notion of ‘Assam = coffee taste’ from, things became clear. The statement was that an Assam was what one might choose to drink when they feel like a cup of coffee, which, of course, is different than the statement or belief that both an Assam and coffee taste similar. So some thing/attribute/quality (and it may only be one) about the experience of drinking an Assam—-possibly its boldness, or intensity, or some other quality about it—-is why it may be suggested as an alternative to coffee. And it now fits comfortably enough into my world view that malty does not describe coffee. Ahhh<< sigh>> Life is back to being straightforward again.

So, yes what you said Daisy does make sense.

I don’t know, K. S., is this explanation chaotic enough for you? : )

Of course, when I get the chance I will be looking to smell/try all of the items you all suggested to get a better handle on exactly what ‘malty’ tastes like (including buying and tasting an Assam!).

Thank you all for helping a frustrated writer in need!

K S said

Yup, I agree with what you have written even if I still don’t get malty out of Assam. I find Assam to be my least favorite black. That may have something to do with my not getting the description. Give me a Darjeeling or Keemun any day.

DaisyChubb said

hooray! Glad to be of service haha!

Also I share a taste with you K S, Assam is also my least favorite black

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Malty… let’s see. It’s a round, marshmallow like base that lends a depth not found otherwise. It reminds me of chocolate in some ways, like how it penetrates the flavour, as opposed to a very light flavouring. Also, as mentioned above… it is more of a bottom or middle note, never a top note.
At one time, I associated malty with astringency but have since found that they aren’t always found together.
Well, I hope that helps!

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Try Samovar’s Breakfast Blend. It’s exemplary of a malty tea. All I get is maltiness & yumminess!

See my review here:

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Have you ever had Whoppers candy?

Suck off the chocolate and you are left with a malt flavored core. You can buy those packs meant for Halloween distribution so you’re not stuck with a candy you dislike if it turns out not to be your cup of tea. Try it for educational purposes. :) I personally find them tasty.

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