📚 Tea Terminology 101 🫖

Posted by Dani Noto on

Years ago, when I started drinking loose-leaf tea, I was horribly confused by some of the tea terminology. People would throw around all these terms, and I had no idea what they were discussing. It was like a foreign language. So, I started on a mission to learn the terms so as not to embarrass myself.

This is just a mini-tutorial; there are many more tea terms, but it will get you started.

  • Aroma is what you smell when you open your tea package. It’s also called the “nose”.
  • BLT: No, not Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato, LOL. Instead, it stands for British Legacy Teas and refers to teas produced in the former British colonies of India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon).
  • Body describes whether or not a tea feels thick in your mouth.
  • BOP: Broken Orange Pekoe is a formal way to classify small tea leaf particles.
  • Briskness is also known as astringency and refers to a tea’s ability to make your mouth pucker.
  • Camellia Sinensis: This is the name of the tea plant from which all our tea is made.
  • Cut-Tear-Curl: Nope, not a hairdo. Also known as CTC, it is a tea processing method that results in broken leaves. It is most often seen in Assam teas.
  • Dust is the smallest tea particles created during the Rolling process. Some lower-quality tea bags contain “dust” instead of leaves.
  • Estate or Garden is the name of the farm or plantation where tea is grown.
  • Fannings are tiny particles of tea used in most teabags. The name comes from the large fans used to separate them from other sizes of tea leaves.
  • Firing is the drying of teas to 3% moisture. Initially, this was done over charcoal, which can still be found occasionally. Now, it is mainly done in ovens.
  • First Flush refers to the very first plucking of a tea plant’s leaves from the new harvest season, usually in the Spring. Often, this is the best-flavored tea.
  • Fixed Green is a tea that has been heated enough to destroy those enzymes that turn the leaves brown or black.
  • Flowery is a tea with a floral taste or aroma.
  • FP combines Flowery and Pekoe, which usually results in small leaves.
  • FTGFOP: This letter alphabet stands for Fancy Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe, a classification of full-leaf tea that looks pleasing and contains some of the tea's buds for sweetness. This is usually a sign of a great tea.
  • Full Leaf: Larger tea leaves.
  • GFBOP: Another kind of alphabet soup that stands for Golden, Flowery, Broken, Orange, Pekoe. This produces fine, broken leaves.
  • Grassy usually refers to a type of green tea that tastes like grass or is very vegetal. An example is Matcha or Japanese Sencha.
  • Herbals are also known as infusions, tisanes, or “teas”. These blends are caffeine-free and made from bark, flowers, leaves, seeds, and dried fruits.
  • Orange Pekoe (OP): Many people think Orange Pekoe is a type of tea, but it’s not. Orange Pekoe refers to large tea leaves and is often used to classify better teas. Orange refers to the royal House of Orange in the Netherlands, which was influential at the beginning of European tea drinking. Pekoe is a mispronunciation of a Chinese word referring to hairy tea buds, a sign of quality.
  • Oxidation: When tea leaves are damaged, a series of chemical reactions turn the leaves brown or black (the plant uses this to defend itself against insects). The speed of the oxidation determines the briskness of the tea. Faster oxidation makes a tea brisker, while slower oxidation makes a tea more mellow. An example of oxidation is when you cut an apple and leave it on the counter; it turns brown.
  • Pluck is a term for harvesting or picking tea leaves.
  • Rolling: After withering, the limp tea leaves are rolled. Originally, this was done in the hands of a skilled tea master. Today, it is mainly done by a machine. Rolling gives your tea its shape: straight, curled, or a ball. The extreme pressure of rolling breaks up the tea leaves, creating different sizes: Orange Pekoe (OP), Broken Pekoe, Fannings, and Dust.
  • Tisane is one of the formal names for herbal teas. Another name would be herbal.
  • Withering: After a tea is plucked, many reactions start. One of those reactions is the evaporation of moisture, where the name withering comes from.

I hope this mini-tutorial helps de-mystify some of the tea terms.

~ Dani

Disclaimer: This newsletter is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. It is not to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare or medical professional.

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