Tea Terms by Tea Association of the USA

Tea Association of the USA

Tea: The leaf and extracted liquor of the shrub Camellia sinensis. No other beverages merit the unqualified term tea.
Sumatra: Tea grown on the island of Sumatra. Gradings and characteristics are similar to Java teas.
Silver Tip Pekoe: A very costly tea from China made from full-grown buds of a special tea bush. This is also referred to as White Tea.
Silvery Oolong: Another costly tea which utilizes the delicate whitish leaf from the first flush.
Russian Carava: A blend of China Black Teas. Although there is little consistency between available blends in the marketplace.
Pouchong: Some of the finest quality and high priced teas. A very fragrant tea which is also used as a base for making Jasmine Tea.
Pan-fired: A Japanese tea which is steamed and then rolled in iron pans to halt further oxidation.
Pekoe: A size of tea leaf characterized by leaves which are shorter and not as wiry as Orange Pekoe. The liquors generally have more color.
Oolong: Partially “fermented” tea which is allowed to wither, then is partially oxidized and dried. The term is of Chinese origins and means Black Dragon.
Orange Pekoe: Is used to identify a large leaf size. The tea is characterized by long, thin, wiry leaves which sometimes contain the white or yellow tip of the leaf bud.
Lapsang Soucho: A fine grade of China Black tea with a distinctive smoky flavor which results from a unique drying process. Tea drinkers either love or hate the taste of this unusual tea.
Keemun: A fine grade of Black Tea from China. It has a dark amber color and unique “sappy liquor.
Jasmine: The Chinese use Green Tea as the base to which Jasmine flowers are used to scent the tea. The finest Chinese Jasmine is called Yin Hao and Chun Hao. Formosa Jasmines use Pouchong tea as a base. Pouchong is allowed to wither for a longer period of time (than Green) before it is fired which places it between Green and Oolong.
Imperial Tea: A rolled Green Tea from Ceylon, China, or India made from older leaves. It has a good aroma and is refreshing.
Hyson, Young Hys: A Chinese Green Tea named for the East India merchant who first sold it in England. Young Hyson is generally preferred to Hyson.
Gyokuro: A prized Japanese Green Tea which is rich to the taste and pleasing to the eye. The tea undergoes special handling at every stage of its growth (shaded) and processing (hand-fired).
Green tea: Tea which undergoes minimal processing and most resembles the original green leaf.
Flowery Orange Pekoe: A large leaf size containing an abundance of tip.
English Breakfast: Traditionally a blend of China Keemums. today the blend has evolved to include Ceylon and India teas to produce a full bodied brew.
Darjeeling: A very high quality black tea grown in the Himalayan Mountains in Northern India. Called the champagne of teas.
Dooar: Tea grown in the Dooar district located in Central India.
China Oolong: A select blend of large leaf teas from China.
Ceylon Breakfast: A blend of fine teas grown on the hillsides of Sri Lanka producing a rich golden liquor with superb flavor.
Chai: A blend of black tea with various spices and steamed milk as commonly drunk in India.
Caffeine: A component of tea which stimulates the nervous system. A cup of tea averages 40 milligrams of caffeine versus approximately 110 in a cup of coffee.
Broken Orange Pekoe: A size of tea leaf comprising the smaller leaves and tips.
Blend: A mixture of teas from several different origins to achieve a certain flavor profile. Most branded teas in the United States use 20 or more origins to achieve their desired taste.
Bancha: A Japanese tea made from coarse leaves, usually from the last plucking. This tea is generally consumed domestically.
Black Tea: The most commonly consumed tea in the world accounting for approximately 80% of all consumption. In the United States well over 90% of the tea consumed is black. One of three major types of tea, the others being Green and Oolong. Black teas are the most processed of all teas in that they are oxidized or fermented.
White Tea: Background
To date, “genuine” white tea is considered to be derived from the first flush buds of the tea bush and grown exclusively in the Fujian Province of China. The name of ‘white tea’ refers to the silver-colored (white) hairs on the picked tea bud. White tea is the least processed of all teas. It isn’t rolled first but is immediately fired. White tea has a strong health association for consumers, but has never been studied exclusively according to public knowledge. Availability is limited and cost high as a result of the limitations of both the plucking standard and its geographical availability. Based on current demands for white tea, a new geographic standard has been proposed.

Proposed New Definition
The Tea Association of the USA has proposed a new definition.
In order for White Tea to be so termed it should be:

  • Processed in accordance with the strict harvesting and processing guidelines originally established in Fujian Province, China
  • Made from finely plucked tender shoots (buds) of Camellia sinensis, which are fired or steamed and then dried.
  • There should be no withering, fermentation (oxidation) or rolling of the buds.
  • The liquor of White Tea is very pale yellow in color, and mild tasting in the cup.

White Tea can be made by any tea producing country providing manufacture conforms to the above harvesting and processing steps.

Pure Buds – This corresponds to :Snow Buds” or “Silver Needles” from China and Silver Tip from Sri Lanka, e.g., whole long fine unopened buds delivering very light subtle liquor.

Whole Leaf – Chinese Pai Mu Tan is commonly called White Tea. It contains both fine whole buds and coarse unfermented and non-graded green leaves. Value depends on proportion of buds, leaf appearance as well as liquor quality and color (the paler, the better). Fannings Grade – For tea bag usage, green fannings that exhibit a high content of tip may be included as White Tea. The presence of tip must be clear and confirmed by a tea expert.

Red Tea: Background:
The term “Red Tea” has always been confusing to both the tea trade as well as consumers. The situation has worsened today as a result of the introduction of a South African Herbal plant called Rooibos or Red Bush from which an herbal tea is made. The purpose of this Position Paper is to provide a guideline for both the trade and consumers to help distinguish between traditional tea, from Camellia sinensis and Rooibos Herbal tea.

Early Definition:
Beginning in the 16th Century and extending to the beginning of the 20th Century, the term “Red Tea” was used by Chinese tea merchants as their name for what the rest of the world would call Black Tea. Today, the term is still used in China, but much less commonly.

In its original form, it described a fully fermented / oxidized tea and it was (is) subsequently used to describe both fully fermented and semi-fermented teas by some members of the Trade.

Current Usage:
Today, several packers of Rooibos have begun labeling their tea as Red Tea. Used alone without any qualification, this can be misleading to consumers who think they are consuming traditional tea so that they may benefit from the much publicized health benefits associated with that product. While Rooibos Tea may also contain health benefits, the body of research supporting claims for Rooibos is tiny in comparison to the volumes of scientific evidence published about the health benefits of Camellia sinensis.

To avoid this potential for confusion, The Tea Association of the USA has approved the following guideline for dissemination to the traditional and herbal tea industries:

Red Tea Guideline:
When using the term “Red Tea” to describe a product derived from the Rooibos or Red Bush plant, the term should be qualified by stating that it contains Rooibus Herbal Tea. When using the term “Red Tea” to describe a traditional Black Tea or Oolong Tea, the term should be so qualified through the use of these descriptors.

While an element of confusion continues to exist, the appropriate use of these modifiers should minimize it.


One thought on “Tea Terms by Tea Association of the USA

  1. Pingback: Characteristics Of Chai Tea BenefitsChai Tea™ | Chai Tea™

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