How to talk tea

The Flushes

First Flush
Picking of the topmost bud and the two leaves in the earliest growth of the tea plant. This lasts from March all through till April. These leaves are more tender and delicate, as all the nutrients have been stored by the plants all winter and the cool and harsh weather prevents fast growth. Thus, the First Flush teas have a high concentration of Polyphenols, which give it an astringency taste. These teas are generally less oxidized and appear much greener compared to most Black Teas. Darjeeling First Flush is one of the most expensive, exclusive and prized teas in the market.

Example: Velvet White & 1888 Okayti Vintage Limited Edition

Second Flush
This Harvest season lasts from May to June. This season witnesses increased temperature, warmth, and sunshine which results in a more rapid growth of the plant. Second Flush yields larger, more mature leaves, which give a stronger yet smoother flavour to the finished tea. These Teas are full-bodied, have a bold muscatel, and fruity flavour.

Example: Darjeeling Second Flush & The Golden Treasure

Monsoon
This Season runs from July to early October. Monsoon Flush yields large leaves which brew into a stronger and bolder flavour, due to the heavy rains and heat drive. The flavours are much more muted and mostly used for iced teas or commercial tea bags.

Example: Darjeeling Monsoon Mystique

Autumnal Flush
This Flush runs from early October to Mid-November. Leaves grow slowly and the bushes squeeze out their last offerings before they enter their dormant state. Autumnal teas have a rich, nutty, woody, full-bodied and smooth characteristic which make it extraordinarily different from the other flushes.

Example: Okayti Autumnal Delight

The Leaf

Leafy or Full-Leaf
Teas which have large open leaves are categorized as Leafy or Full Leaf. Mostly Oolongs or white teas.

Wiry
Leaves which are thin, long, tightly rolled are known as wiry. Black Teas mostly fall under this category.

Needles
Teas which are the not opened leaf bud or the very young just opened leaves which are tightly rolled into a needle- shape they were in before opening up. These are White teas like the silver needles specifically.

Pearls or Pellets
Teas that are rolled to make round balls like pellets or gunpowder. If the roll is very loose, it is referred to as curl, as it is not an exact sphere.

Tippy
Teas which have a white bud or the bud may look golden in oxidized black teas. This can be in White, Oolongs or Black teas. Our Assam Golden Orthodox is a golden tippy Black tea.

Flat or Pan-Fired
Teas which have been pan fired or pressed flat. Conventionally this process was associated with Chinese Teas. Pan Fired teas taste Grassy and have a Slight roasted aroma and flavour. Green Teas most commonly undergo this process.

Steamed
As the name suggests these teas are the ones that have been steamed. Japanese Green Tea uses this technique and can be easily identified as the leaves get a dark green colour and shiny. Sweet and Briny aroma, a perfect example is a Sencha.

Broken
In this type of tea, the leaves are broken into small pieces in the rolling process. Mostly Black Teas undergo this process and deliver a strong cup. Teas which have broken leaves are less expensive.

The Liquor

Liquor is the liquid that results from steeping tea. The shades of tea liquors (mainly if you use tisanes and flavoured teas) can be wide-ranging and possibly run the spectrum of the rainbow. The liquors are described in a creative way to enhance the picture that comes to a readers mind. A few commonly used liquor terms are amber instead of orange, copper for light brown colour, cognac for a dark brown shade, and straw for a pale-yellow hue.

Flavour and Aroma

These two aspects of tea go hand in hand; as they are closely connected hence we will discuss them together. Aroma of a tea is an important characteristic in determining the quality of tea based on which it can be accepted or rejected even before it is tasted. Taste/ Flavor basically is composed of five sensations – sweetness, sourness, bitterness, salty and umami. A delicious cup of tea is a balance of various taste sensations.

Some of the most frequently used description terms are explained below:

Astringent
This is a dry, puckering mouthfeel which affects the whole tongue. Natural antioxidants, also known as polyphenols present in Tea bind with our saliva to create this dry feeling on the sides of the mouth and tongue. The brisk tannic bite in tea is also due to these antioxidants. The bitter sensation is a centre-back tongue experience, whereas astringency is sensed on the sides and back of your tongue. Astringency has a physical sensation similar to sour. It is important to differentiate between Bitterness, which is a flavour, and astringency which is a physical sensation. It takes some time to get used to the astringency feeling, but the correct level of tea is a highly prized property of the best teas. A cup of an excellent First – Flush Darjeeling is a perfect way to experience Astringency.

Vegetal
This is a common trait in green teas, some oolongs and also crisp vegetal notes can be found in some Darjeeling Black teas. Vegetal taste lies somewhere in between savoury and fruity. The savoury side is best characterized towards nutty but still very grassy. These green leafy teas will not have a sharp or astringency flavour to it.

Briny
This taste is usually associated with Japanese green teas. Briny is an alternative word for seaweed like taste. Some other notes that are related to this taste are of spinach, the smell of the seawater, asparagus etc. Often, teas like Gyokuro (finer Japanese green teas) this flavour is accompanied with fruity, refreshing sweet finish.

Floral
Teas which evoke a sweet, warm, bright, pleasant aroma reminding you of a perfume are categorized under this section. Lilac blossoms with a smooth, buttery finish are the notes to look out for in a perfect cup of this type of tea. Some of the best examples of floral teas are green oolongs produced at high mountains.

Roasted or toasted
This unique flavour lies between almonds, walnuts, hay/straw or roasted chestnuts. Commonly found in the Chinese Green teas. The nutty flavour is induced if the tea is pan-fired or a tea drying technique is used in the Tea preparation process.

Umami
This flavour directly speaks to your palate. And if you are a foodie at heart you are already familiar with. It is the fifth taste element apart from sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Umami is a physical experience of taste, the complete feel you get in your mouth. Imagine chicken broth- the taste is certainly salty, but it also has a rich savoury, buttery taste to it which is very different from the four classified tastes (sweet, salty, sour and bitter). The savoury flavour which you experience in your mouth is called Umami. Indulge in this rich flavour with the bright, fruity notes in a Gyokuro(Japanese Tea) and you will understand the nuance of aroma and flavour.

Muscatel
Ever wondered what a tea from Darjeeling tastes like? Ask a tea connoisseur and you will hear “Muscatel”. This term is coined from the white Muscat grapes which are used in the preparation of sweet and sparkling wines. This flavour is very difficult to explain to a layman; however, once you have tried the tea you will get familiar with it. It is brisk, a little astringency, floral and bright leaving your mouth dry. Mostly found in the Second Flush Darjeeling teas and adds a special character to these teas.

Strong
Pretty much as the name suggests- this type of tea is filled with taste. You can refer to this tea as full-bodied, rich, robust, bold, and heavy.

Earthy
This may sometimes be confused with strong, but it has a lot of other details to it like woody, musty, savoury, and also sweet. More like if you can imagine mushrooms or the soil used in planting. It is a little difficult to associate such things with tea, but a cup of good Chinese Yunnan will definitely enlighten you and you will understand what we mean.

Malty
This term is used to describe the caramel-like sweetness of fermented wheat or barley. Strong Black Assam Teas offer this honeyed, brown sugar richness. Try several Assams, you will come to understand malty. Not all Assams are malty, but they are best known for it.

Smooth
Self-explanatory, the word smooth, mild, mellow, soft all used to describe teas with a full body but without any astringency bite to it. Oolongs and Chinese Keemuns are best categorized under this type.