Words for Tasting Tea

Words for Tasting Tea

Apart from the wealth of knowledge and cultural and personal experience he or she possesses, a taster must be able to summon up several skills. One of them is knowing how to structure sensations in order to express them clearly.

When one inhales a fragrance, an image or an emotion comes to mind more readily than a word. Unfortunately, without the help of the right vocabulary, an emotion can be difficult to interpret Learning to describe our sensations as precisely as possible helps us to refine our senses and enrich the perception we have of a tea (or any other food). Associating a smell with a word allows us to classify it, to categorize it so that it will be easier to recognize later It is necessary therefore to build up a gustatory memory. The greater the precision of the terms used, the easier it will be to detect shades of taste and for the brain to remember taste experiences.

Learning the right vocabulary is, therefore, fundamental. At first, it may seem a tedious exercise, but with patience and training it soon becomes clear that it is not that difficult. By developing our olfactory memory every day and becoming aware of the smells around us, our senses will naturally learn to be more precise. Group tasting also creates the opportunity to exchange tasting terms and to detect certain elements that a solitary taster cannot at first appreciate. Sharing and expressing sensations is part of the pleasure of tasting; in some ways, this is the goal.

Naming the aromas of a tea is much more difficult than detecting the various flavors, for a very simple reason: an infusion of tea releases several hundred volatile molecules. Bombarded with all this information, the brain has to sort and summarize.


The smells released by tea are not perceptible at the same time or in the same way. Their degree of volatility changes their persistence and tells us how the taste of a tea evolves.

• Head notes are volatile notes that are often fleeting and give us a first impression of the taste of a tea. We perceive them immediately.

• Body notes are those we perceive when the liquid is in the mouth. They structure the liquid and give it its character Powerful and stable, they are responsible for the overall impression we have of a tea.

• Tail notes are those that remain in the mouth and linger in aromas after the liquid is swallowed. When a tea is rich in flavors, the tail notes can show either its persistence or the evolution of the flavor; which will sometimes culminate in complex sensations.

After having sniffed the tea and having tried to detect as many aromas emanating from the leaves or the liquid as possible, the second challenge is to describe the texture as well as the general impression that it leaves.


To learn how to use the vocabulary of tasting correctly, it is a good idea to start by getting to know the various families of tea aromas. The aim is not to learn by heart all these terms and definitions, but to better understand the groups of smells according to their olfaaory characteristics. Of course, the fragrances of tea are not set, and they can belong to several families and often mingle different shades of various aromas, mystifying us and enhancing our pleasure.