Words to Taste By

  • June 2, 2009

When I first started learning about teas, I was told to approach them in the way that a connoisseur would approach wine. Much like wine, teas can offer an array of flavors to tantalize the taste buds and stimulate your imagination. Some are bold and forward, others are more complex, blending a variety of subtle notes. Similar to wine, there’s a wide range of tea varieties out there, with differences both obvious and obscure.

Knowing some good tea terms is a great way to make the wide world of “tea-talk” more inviting. Here’s a list of some of my favorites to use whenever you get the chance to taste a few teas. As a lover of words, I’m always looking for more. Leave your favorites in the comments!

Biscuity: a pleasant taste reminiscent of fresh bread

Brisk: lively, with high astringency and a memorable flavor

Earthy: darker, richer taste evocative of soil

Floral: a sweet, light taste reminiscent of fresh flowers

Fruity: any flavor suggesting fruit, such as apples, grapes, or citrus

Malty: a sweet flavor, like malted barley

Nutty: reminiscent of nuts, like almonds or hazelnut

Savory: a rich, full-bodied flavor with minimal sweetness

Smokey: suggestive of smoke or wood ash

Sweet: a natural characteristic of certain teas

Vegetal: a fresh taste characteristic of green teas, ranging from grassy to herbal to almost like seaweed

Woody: redolent aromas of forests and cut wood


  • This is a nice list. The only problem is it’s mostly limited to ways to describe Black Tea with its flavors. I’d like to see some of the many ways to describe Oolong, for instance.

    Jason Witt — July 13, 2009 at 11:05 pm
  • Teas rock! I drink a cup of tea everyday!

    rene'e braxton — November 10, 2009 at 11:13 pm

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