What are common tea descriptors? I need to improve my vocabulary!
I really struggle to describe the flavors I am experiencing when I drink teas. This is partly because I’m still new to tea drinking, but also because the flavors themselves can be subtle. I’ve come to understand terms like vegetal (for teas that are “grassy”) and earthy (for teas that remind me of the dirt the bush grew in, or the ground after a fresh rain). I could stand to improve my vocabulary and also learn to recognize common (and less common) scents and flavors. What should I be looking for in different types of teas? Please help me increase my tea vocabulary!
Oh lets see … just off the top of my head perhaps …
Wow my head is not working well today – I have the dumbs.
Mouthfeel can be creamy, heavy, full, light or bright, sparkly
Creamy which can be a flavor or mouthfeel or both
Really any thing that REMINDS you of another flavor
Don’t be shy to say what you taste and feel! While there are a lot of common words used there are no WRONG words! :)
I would also say grassy is unto itself.
Vegetal could be like corn, broccoli, cauliflower, green bean etc and so on.
I try to remember to say what KIND of vegetal I taste but I do not always do this.
Mineral (pu’erh), muscatel (Darjeelings), winey (Oriental Beauty), woody (pu’erhs and oolongs), vegetal, herbaceous, smokey, peppery (Yunnan black teas), meaty, nutty, chestnut (Dragonwell), pine, barnyard (pu’erh), cedar, cinnamon, cocoa undertones, hoppy (think of an IPA), honey, melon (white teas), artichoke, sweetgrass, orchid (oolongs), sparkling, bright, buzzing, brassy, brisk (Ceylon), high pitched, smooth, dark, rich, velvety, green, dark (different in relation to green) chlorophyl (I don’t really use this one in public logs but I used it in my notes today), sunny and I have to repeat buttery because I lovvvve buttery mouthfeel in my tea, oh and roasty toasty goodness. ;)
A few that might help:
Pungent – a tea that is astringent but not necessarily bitter. Creates a slight “raw” feeling in the mouth.
Plain – A tea without any desirable or undesirable characteristics.
Sour – Sour. Usually a sign of defective manufacture or poor storage.
Dry, Bakey, High-fired, and Burnt – Describe a fault in tea in increasing order of undesirability. A level of firing that would produce a dry flavor in some teas will create a malty flavor (a positive) in others. This depends on the tea.
Sweaty, Musty – most likely from tea that is moldy or mildewed. (Note: this flavor is not necessarily a flaw in Pu-erh, but is in all other teas).
Full – strength without much bitterness (a plus). If present in excess, full leads to “soft”, which leads to “flat”, a flaw in black teas.
Wow, this is really helpful! Thank you all!
Very nice and informative thread! It’s always interesting to see how different drinkers define and use these descriptive words.
I like trying to describe a tea myself, then comparing my reaction to those of other drinkers. I always feel good when more experienced tea drinkers notice the same things I’ve described (although they often say it more clearly than I have).
haha yes I read a lot of descriptions and tastings by our fellow steepsters and their vocabulary and wording is much better than mine. Hopefully I can improve and be more accurate with my tastings.
I wonder, do tea tastings ever offer examples of negative qualities, or would that be restricted to full-out sommelier courses?
I like to make note of reviews that use a term I’m unfamiliar with if they’re reviewing a tea I can easily get my hands on. Then I taste the tea myself, yeah? If I can compare a few different teas that have been described using the term, I can generally get a sense of what the term is supposed to mean.
My background is in coffee, so I tend to use the common coffee tasting framework when thinking about teas (and beers for that matter :P ) – that breaks down into acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel, body (kind of vague, but for me this is about how the different component flavours fit together) and aftertaste. For each of these, I’ll think about both a “how much” and a “what kind”. I’ll then try and place the experiences in order (i.e. Is the acidity at the start? Is the sweetness at the start the same as that in the aftertaste?).
Most of the descriptors I use are fairly straight forward – fruits, spices, etc. – however I’m aware that these all carry personal context – I don’t like coriander, so if I identify it in a tea I’m probably being negative; if I liked the flavour I’d probably call it something else.
Hey guys. I think the key is that there are no wrong answers. Use your imagination. If you taste it, then its there.
A while ago I made a handy tea adjective word cloud. You can click on any of the descriptive words and it will give you some examples of teas with those flavors. It is by no means an exhaustive list of tea flavor adjectives, but maybe it will be helpful in giving you some ideas.