Kiaharii said

Usage of the word "astringent"/"astringency"

So, I’ve seen this word come up on many a reviews and general tea discussion.

It seems that to some this means bitter (at least that’s what I’m understanding), while some tea websites have a different definition. Here are a couple:

“Tea is filled with natural antioxidants, also known as polyphenols. These provide the health benefits in tea and also a good portion of the taste. Polyphenols bind with our saliva and create a dry sensation on the tongue and sides of the mouth. They also provide the brisk, tannic bite that is associated with tea. Whereas bitterness is a center-back of the tongue experience, astringency is sensed more along the sides of back of your tongue with a physical sensation that is similar to sour. Also important to note: astringency is a physical sensation, whereas bitterness is a flavor – the two can easily be confused, but they are different. While astringency may take some getting used to, at the proper levels it is actually a highly prized characteristic of the finest teas.” – Adagio Teas (Tea Class)

Tea nerd goes a little deeper with different types here –

A couple of places have said that this is desirable in teas, but people seem to try and avoid astringent teas? Is this just a confusion of wording, seems like it. I feel like I don’t really have a question anymore but I thought I’d like to share the info anyway. :)

7 Replies

Some people enjoy the sensation of astringency (which I’ve found can be sometimes a tangy sort of sensation, and sometimes a sort of dry sensation) … but not everyone does. I like some astringency, but have occasionally come across a tea that is too astringent.

So, no, I don’t necessarily believe that it is a confusion of wording (although in some cases it might be), I think it is that astringency is not for everyone. And even for those who may not mind astringency… I think that a tea that is too astringent… is well, too astringent. Tea should have a balance.

Kiaharii said

Thanks for the response. Definitely agree about the balance thing. Somewhere I read that teas with no astringency are “flat” and it helps give a bit of “oomph” to tea. I think I like it, but I think I also don’t mind not having it in certain teas (like rooibos, which I’ll think has a lower amount of polyphenols).

Rooibos has little to no tannins in it and I think that this has something to do with rooibos lack of astringency as well.

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Astringency, as I know and use it, is similar to the term tannic when referring to wine. It’s basically the same affect on the taste buds. Some people love that dry feeling at the back of your tongue, others do not so it really comes down to a matter of personal preference. Also there are certain teas that should be tannic, like a really heavy black tea, and others that should not be tannic, like a very delicate green tea.

Kiaharii said

Not a huge wine person so I’m not too familiar with the word. I think I like it though, and I do love black teas. Thanks for the input!

I’m wondering what you mean by a very delicate green tea? Like gyokuro? Because shincha, a high-quality green tea from the first harvest of the year, has a high polyphenol content and is thus quite astringent.

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TwoDog2 said

Astringency, as I use it, refers to a tactile part of a tea, rather than a flavor. Where as bitterness is a component of flavor, astringency is a feeling. A contraction on the tongue. Almost like a tingle, or gentle pulling numbness.

The Chinese term “se wei” is a descriptor I use a lot, because it feels more right than astringency. If anyone in this thread would like to experience a tea that is strongly astringent, seek out a Nan Nuo Shan raw puer. Raw puer from the nan nuo mountain region is all very astringent.

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