Tea Words: A Glossary of Tea Terms

Tea Terms Explained
Diana L

Have you come across tea words that leave you wondering what the heck they are talking about? Here are some common (and not so common) tea terms defined so you aren't left guessing any longer.


Found in herbs and roots that come from plants, adaptogens are said to help the body’s resilience against serious health conditions. Adaptogens are also said to play a huge role in the aging process, so many adaptogens are considered to have anti-aging properties. Examples of adaptogens are turmeric, ginseng, licorice, and ginger. Adaptogens may also perform many functions that help alter the body’s response to stress.

Studies of the benefits of adaptogens have been found to:

  • Improve attention
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Lower stress-induced disorders 
  • Balance hormone levels
  • Combat the impact that stress has on cognitive function
  • Stimulate mental performance that has been impacted by stress
  • Normalize body functions
  • Boost the immune system that may have been weakened by stress
  • Help fight symptoms such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and obesity caused by elevated cortisol levels
  • Improve energy levels
  • Improve liver and adrenal gland function 
  • Improve gastrointestinal function


A decrease in body fat, particularly in the abdomen, by inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels. Studies have shown that green tea may help promote this process.

Artisan tea

Loose leaf tea made by hand is considered an Artisan tea resulting in a higher quality loose leaf tea.


A mixture of teas from several different regions or origins to achieve a certain flavor profile.

Camellia sinensis

The species of plant whose leaves are used to produce tea. Black, Green, White, Oolong, and Pu-erh teas all come from the Camellia sinensis plant.

Caffeine-free tea  

Herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint are caffeine-free. This is because they are made from dried flowers, leaves, seeds, or roots, and not from the Camellia sinensis plant as most teas. But be watchful as not all herbal teas are caffeine-free.

Ceylon Tea

Ceylon tea refers to tea produced in the highlands of Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon). Ceylon tea has a distinct flavor and high antioxidant content. Like other types of tea, it's made from the dried and processed leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. 

Chai Tea

Originating in India, chai teas typically are a black tea blended with spices and herbs, but can also be blends built from rooibos, oolong, or even white teas.


A Japanese bamboo tea whisk used for preparing matcha.


High-quality black tea grown in the Himalaya Mountains of India. Darjeeling is often referred to as the champagne of teas.

Decaf tea

Decaf tea does not mean it is caffeine-free. Tea with zero or less than 2-3 mg of caffeine per cup is considered decaf.


These are the smallest tea particles created during the rolling process. It makes for a thin and unpleasant cup of tea, and what is commonly used by grocery-grade teabag companies.


One step up from dust are the very small particles of tea known as fannings. These are also commonly used in grocery-grade teabags. The name comes from the large fans that were used to separate out the smaller leaves from the whole leaves you get when you buy loose leaf tea.


The natural chemical process that occurs in black and oolong tea leaves after they have been rolled. The true chemical transformation is oxidation, a more correct terminology of the process.

First flush

At the beginning of a tea plant’s harvest season, the first flush is the very first plucking (or harvesting) of the leaves. Because the tea plant uses stored energy from the previous season, this is often the best tea.

Flavored tea

Blending different teas with a variety of spices, natural flavors, flowers, and dried fruits. 


A tea description used for a tea with a floral taste or aroma (flavor) such as our Jasmine Green Tea Pearls. As the pearls unfurl, the fragrance is released and provides a sensory experience in scent as well as the taste.


Tea that is grown on the island of Taiwan.


A drink made by infusing teas or tisanes in water.

Gunpowder tea

A type of green tea that has been rolled into a pellet shape.


A sugary fermented, lightly effervescent drink made with sweetened black or green tea and healthy bacteria.

Lapsang Souchong

This fine grade of black tea has a distinctive smoky flavor resulting from the drying process where pine was used to dry and smoke the tea.

Loose teas

Dried tea leaves sold in a container instead of teabags. With loose leaf tea, you experience a fuller flavor due to the expansion of the full leaf, which you don't experience with teabags that contain the dust or fannings.


An amino-acid that can help elevate levels of neurotransmitters such as GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. They work in the brain to regulate emotions, mood, concentration, alertness, sleep, appetite, energy, and cognitive skills. The L-theanine in green tea can create a savory taste, also known as umami flavor. Research suggests that umami flavors may reduce appetite, which often helps with weight loss.


A powdered green tea, packed with antioxidants. Matcha contains 10x the antioxidants of regular green tea.  


A tea characteristic resembling that of grapes. Also a characteristic in the liquors of exquisite second flush Darjeelings.


Aspects of tea that create an individual experience that impacts of all the senses.


When tea leaves are exposed to the air they begin to dry and darken, contributing to the flavor, aroma, and strength of different teas. Oxidation may be completely prevented or deliberately initiated, controlled and then stopped to produce different flavors in the tea. The speed of this oxidation determines the briskness of your tea. Fast oxidation makes a brisk tea, while slower oxidation makes a mellow tea. For many years this has been mistakenly called Fermentation. 


A high-grade black tea made from shorter, younger leaves picked as 2 leaves and a bud.


Phytogenics are a group of natural growth promoters or non-antibiotic growth promoters used as feed additives, derived from herbs, spices, or other plants. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) has been used as a phytogenic substance in poultry diets in a study focused on the role of green tea in the promotion of both animal and human health.


After withering, the limp tea leaves are rolled. Originally it was done by hand, today is now done mostly by a machine. This gives your tea its straight, curled, or ball shape. For oolongs and black teas, this allows for more uniform oxidation. The fannings and dust are separated from the whole leaves in this process.


A common green tea in Japan, and accounts for about 75% of tea production. The leaves are steamed and flattened using rollers.

Spill the Tea

What does it mean to spill the tea? To spill the tea means to gossip, or share juicy news. The original phrase comes from the term "spill the T" or "spill the truth", but has been modified to "tea" to dress it up and add humor.

Steep Tea

Steeping is the process of extracting the flavor and antioxidants from the ingredients in tea by allowing the tea to sit in hot water. Steeping and brewing tea are similar in that they are involved in the method of making tea. Brewing is the actual act, while steeping is the process. To brew tea, you steep the leaves in hot water. 

Tannins in tea

Tannins are chemical compounds found in several plant-based foods and drinks, including tea. The tannins in tea are responsible for contributing to the taste and fragrant characteristics of tea,  thought to be responsible for the health benefits of tea. 

Tea cultivar  

A cultivar is a group of tea plants bred by farmers for specific characteristics. Cultivars can be bred to suit certain weather conditions (frost hardy or early sprouting), or for specific flavors or aromas.

Tea Liquors

When it comes to tea, liquor is used to help describe the flavor your senses experience and define the characteristics of each unique tea, such as a brisk liquor, a pale liquor, a full-bodied golden yellow liquor.


As with wine, terroir refers to the unique environment where a tea is grown, defined by climate, soil, and weather conditions.


We'll continue to add to this list from customer requests, send us an email if there is a term you need help with! 

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