What are some of the vocabularies for tea-taster?

Kanishka Banerjee

Classifying aromas and odors are not easy and it comes with practice. Our memories retain traces of smells and every other form of sensation. When we smell something, our brain can easily replay whatever is associated with that sensation but fails to prompt us a name – that’s why it is better to associate with the vocabularies to express ourselves properly. There are two major forms of vocabulary. The vocabulary of Organic Chemistry, which is difficult to understand and convey if you or your audience has not studied it. The second one, a more common image-based approach, is inspired by nature. Floral, Fruity, Spicy, Earthy are the common types. Each of these can be further broken down to several levels e.g. Floral can be “fresh floral” like roses, lily, hyacinth or “white flowers” like jasmine, daisy, wisteria or “exotic flowers” like magnolia and orchid. Similarly, Fruity can be classified further into “orchard fruits” like pear, apple, grape, plum or “berries” like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries or citrus fruits like lemon, orange, mandarins or “tropical fruits” like mango, lychee, pineapple.

Words describing texture is another aspect of the vocabulary. “Astringency” is the bitterness in the mouth of various degrees, causes by the tannin in the tea. It could also be a sensation of dryness. “Body” refers to the characteristic of a liquor with a certain structure and thickness. Robust often describes a full-bodied tea. “Mouth-filling” or “Roundness” is another characteristic of a liquor that fills the mouth in a rounded way, a sensation of fullness in the mouth. “Smooth” often describes a tea lacking harsh tannins and therefore without the asperity. Other common tasting terms are “Balanced”, which describes a liquor in which the aromas succeed each other smoothly, well highlighted by the flavors and texture. “Finesse” refers to a liquor with subtle and precise aromas. “Bouquet” is the sensation of the aromatic characteristics while “Harmony” is commonly used when the flavor, texture and aromas are well balanced, with a fine succession of notes. Although I became aware of these vocabularies through reading but I have experienced first-hand during multiple tea tasting sessions while selecting our tea at Kolkata or tea estates in the Hills.

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