Tea Glossary


Definitions and explanations of terms used to discuss tea.


Black Tea - The most widely consumed teas, black teas are full-flavored and characterized by a tannic, woody astringency with subtle, flowery nuances. To make black tea, the leaves are picked and withered for one to two days and then rolled (rolling helps to release the enzymes needed for the next step). Next the leaves are oxidized, which develops the characteristic black tea flavor and changes the color of the leaves from green to brown or black. Finally the tea is fired in hot pans or ovens to stop oxidation and to dry leaves.


Body - Body refers to the weight of prepared tea on the tongue. A tea can have a heavy, medium, full or light body.


Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP) - Tea is graded by leaf size. Broken orange pekoe consists of broken and smaller sized leaves.


Bubble Tea - Bubble tea is a novel beverage gaining popularity in some parts of the country. It is made by pouring hot tea over cooked and cooled tapioca pearls. Any hot tea can be used. Bubble tea is served in a tall glass, usually with milk.


Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination - In the CO2 decaffeination process, water soaked tea leaves are placed in a stainless steel container or extractor. The extractor is then sealed and liquid CO2 is injected. The CO2 acts as the solvent to dissolve and draw the caffeine from the leaves, leaving the larger-molecule flavor components behind. The caffeine-laden CO2 is then transferred to another container. Here the pressure is released and the CO2 returns to its gaseous state, leaving the caffeine behind. The caffeine free CO2 gas is pumped back into a pressurized container for reuse. CO2 decaffeination produces the most flavorful decaffeinated tea. There are no harmful chemicals or byproducts of the process.


Fannings - Tea is graded by leaf size. Fannings are the very small broken leaves, and are often used for tea bags.


Flush - A flush is the sprouting of new leaves and buds on a tea bush. The number of times a tea plant may flush depends on where it is grown-- with higher, colder regions having only one flush a year; to Sumatra, where the tea plants put out new leaves all year round. Some teas, such as Darjeeling, are graded and sold by flush.


Green Tea - Green teas have a grassy, brothy, astringent flavor. Green teas are more widely consumed in Asia. However, with the release of a number of studies on the health benefits of drinking green tea, sales of green tea are growing in the U.S. at over 30%. Green tea is made by first steaming or pan-frying the fresh leaves to prevent the oxidation process that produces black tea. Next the leaves are rolled and then the tea is fired to dry the leaves.


Herbal Tea - Herbal teas are not really teas in the true sense; they are herbal "infusions" or "tisanes." True tea comes from the botanical Camellia sinensis (formerly known as Thea sinensis). Herbal teas are made by pouring one cup of boiling water over two to three teaspoons of chopped herbs, and steeping for 3 to 5 minutes. They can be made from a variety of botanicals, including spices, roots, leaves, seeds and flowers.


Infusion - Infusion is another name for herbal tea (see Herbal Tea).


Lung Ching Tea - Another name for Dragonwell tea.


Oolong Tea - Oolong (English) or Wu Long (Chinese pinyin translation) tea is a partially oxidized tea, and has flavor characteristics of both green and black teas. The fresh leaves are withered for one to two days, then rolled to release enzymes (needed for the next step). Then the tea leaves are allowed to oxidize, although for a shorter period than for black tea, and the process is stopped before it is completed. The tea is fired (heated) to prevent further oxidation and to dry the tea. Oolong teas can vary significantly in flavor depending on when the oxidization process is interrupted, having more of a green tea character if interrupted early in the process, and more black tea character the longer oxidation continues.


Orange Pekoe (OP) Tea - Tea is graded by leaf size. Orange Pekoe is a full leaf tea with no buds (tip).


Pu-erh Tea - Pu-erh is a "composted" tea produced in the Yunnan province of China. The freshly picked tea is fired then placed in piles and monitored to maintain proper temperature and moisure during the aging process. Pu-erh is a specialty tea with a strong, earthy flavor.


Souchong Tea - Tea is graded by leaf size. Souchong is made from large tea leaves that are rolled lengthwise, which gives them a coarse appearance. Souchong teas are generally smoked teas from China.


Sun Tea - Sun tea is tea brewed slowly by the sun. To make, put four teaspoons of tea per quart in a glass jar, fill with cool water, stir and place in the sun for six hours. Strain and serve or refrigerate.


Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (TGFOP) - Tea leaves are graded by size. Tippy golden flowery orange pekoe is a full leaf tea with many golden buds.


Tisane - Tisane is another name for herbal tea (see Herbal Tea). The term originated in France and is derived from the Latin term, "ptisana".


White Tea - White teas are a type of green tea made from the unopened leaf buds. It is the least processed of the teas and has a light, grassy, very mild flavor. The fresh picked leaves are immediately steamed to prevent any oxidation and then fired to dry them. The term "white tea" refers to the whitish cast of the tea that comes from the silky white hairs on the tightly closed leaf buds of the tea.


Wu Long - Wu Long is the Chinese pinyin translation of Oolong.

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