Tea Industry Definitions

Below are definitions of many of  terms commonly used in the industry. We are constantly adding to this section.  Don’t see the term you need? Leave us a comment below.


Assam– a region in northeast India famous for its black teas.

astringency – a sour, dry, or  mouth-puckering taste that tea can develop under a variety of circumstances.



Camellia assamica – the southern neighbor of Camellia sinensis, this plant was discovered by the British in the Assam region of India.

Camellia sinensis – a tropical and subtropical plant that is native to Asia. It is the original plant from which tea was made. The sinensis variety of this plant is a native of China.

chamomile – a well-known herb native to Europe. It’s name is derived from the greek word meaning “ground apple” because of its strong apple-like flavor.

Ceylon – the colonial British name for the island of Sri Lanka. The term still describes teas which come from Sri Lanka today.

clouding – a term that refers to a murky quality of a tea’s liquor that sometimes develops after brewing.

cuppa – a colloquial British term for ‘a cup of tea.’


Darjeeling– a region in northeast India famous for its teas. This region claims to produce the “champagne of teas.”


essence – (in tasting) the aroma of the tea left over in the cup after the leaves have been strained from the liquor.


Formosa – an old name for the island of Taiwan. The term still describes teas which come from Taiwan today.


green tea – Green tea generally comes in two styles “pan-fired” which is the common method of stopping oxidation in China, and “steamed” which is the preferred method of stopping oxidation in Japan. Green tea has gotten a lot of attention in the West because of the belief that it is a healthy drink.



infuse – to steep something in a liquid without bringing it to a boil. This is done to extract oils, flavors, and nutrients intended to be consumed later.

infusion – the liquid and the substance being infused before the liquor is strained away. Once the liquor is strained away the remaining substance can also be called the “infusion” as well as the “wet leaf.”




liquor – the liquid infusion of tea as presented in the cup. The liquor is what you actually drink, and has nothing to do with alcohol.




oolong tea – this tea is rolled and partially-oxidized to promote complexity of flavor. Oolong literally means “black dragon” in Mandarin.

oxidization – a term used to refer to the gradual darkening of the plucked tea leaf. Oxidization is carefully controlled in the production of tea once the leaves are plucked. This is the same process that turns an apple brown after you cut it open.


pu’erh tea – originally from the town of pu’erh in southwestern China. This tea is unique because of the fermentation process the tea goes through after production. High quality pu’erhs will ferment for many years, yielding a dark musky flavor.



retro-olfaction – the process of smelling and experiencing a tea after it has been swallowed. Not necessarily the same as aftertaste.



terroir – a term taken from wine culture which refers to the climate, soil conditions, and weather patterns which affect the condition of the tea leaf when it is plucked.




white tea – the least oxidized of all teas. White teas go through a minimal  post-production process where the leaves are simply left to dry.





  1. Tea Basics 102: Where Does Tea Come From? | QTrade Teas Blog - August 15, 2011

    […] Tea Industry Definitions […]

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