Tea Terminology: Taste

In the first part of the series, we’re defining tea terms and introducing a range of taste profiles in words, so you can better select and appreciate your teas, or have a few terms handy when conversing with tea enthusiasts!

Umami: Think broths, cheese and oyster sauce – these foods are high in umami and characterised by a rich, savoury taste. Among green tea varieties, teas made from young tea leaves and have lesser exposure to sunlight (such as Gyokuro) contain higher amounts of umami, while teas exposed to higher amounts of sunlight (such as Sencha) or made from mature leaves (such as Hojicha) contain lower amounts of umami. [1],[2]

Bitter: Before you start avoiding any tea with a hint of bitterness (easily determined with teapasar’s Discover Your Perfect Blend function), a small amount of it may be desirable to give it some depth and make a cup of tea more interesting. While black teas and oolong teas tend to have higher tannin content (the compound that contributes to its bitterness), an intense bitterness could also be an indication of a low quality tea (broken tea leaves may be a sign) or oversteeping (for best practice, avoid steeping your tea leaves for longer than 3 minutes!). [3],[4]

Earthy: With a pungent aroma and a taste reminiscent of soil (after it rains), ‘earthy’ flavours are largely synonoymous with Pu-erh teas. This earthy tasting profile is a result of a portion of moisture in the tea leaves being retained after gathering and firing the tea leaves. Following which the tea leaves undergo a process similar to fermentation as it ripens and age, eventually lending richer and woody flavours that are characterised as ‘earthy’, similar to fine wine.

Floral: Being all the buzz in recent years, floral tastes are associated with sweet taste profiles and lingering fragrance. Teas described as floral may refer to flavoured teas like rose-scented teas, or may be carefully brought out through the minimal processing or lightly oxidised production of tea leaves, creating subtle floral notes and sweetness to the finish in certain oolong varieties. [5]

Grassy/ Herbal: ‘Grassy’ or ‘herbal’ is another term often used to describe green teas, as sipping these teas evokes the taste of fresh vegetables. As green teas are very lightly processed, they retain most of that refreshing grassy scent and taste. May also be referred to as ‘vegetal’. [6]

There you have it, a few terms describing taste profiles to kickstart your long lasting affair with teas. Next time you drink a cup of tea, try to see how many different tasting notes you can discern!


[1] “The Deliciousness of Umami in Tea Explained”. 2019. https://www.worldteanews.com/Insights/deliciousness-umami-tea-explained

[2] “What does Umami Taste Like? The 5th Taste of Tea”. 2018. https://pathofcha.com/blogs/all-about-tea/what-umami-tastes-like 

[3] “What Causes Tea to be Bitter”.n.d. https://coffeeandteacorner.com/what-causes-tea-to-be-bitter-green-black/ 

[4] “Tasting Notes: Bitterness vs Astringency”. 2019. https://redblossomtea.com/blogs/red-blossom-blog/tasting-notes-bitterness-vs-astringency

[5] “Flavours of Pure Tea: Natural Tea Fragrances”. 2019. https://redblossomtea.com/blogs/red-blossom-blog/flavors-of-pure-tea-natural-floral-fragrances

[6] “Pu-Erh Tea: It Tastes Like Dirt and It’s Good for You”. 2019. https://www.streetdirectory.com/food_editorials/beverages/teas/pu_erh_tea_it_tastes_like_dirt_and_its_good_for_you.html

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