Much like describing the qualities of wine or coffee, there are a number of terms used to describe the subtle nuances in flavor and appearance, as well as detectable defects, in tea. Some of the most used terms to describe brewed tea while tea tasting are defined below.
Aroma: This refers to how brewed tea smells.
Body: Describes how the brewed tea feels on the tongue. Delicate white tea will seem to instantly evaporate, where as a full-bodied black tea will linger.
Brassy: Bitter taste. This is a processing defect caused by not allowing the leaves for black tea to wither long enough.
Brisk: A pleasing and slightly tangy taste from a well-fermented and well-fired tea.
Burnt: Burnt taste. This is caused by overfiring, and is undesirable.
Course: Acidic and slightly bitter taste.
Crisp: Taste quickly disappears on the tongue. Very desirable characteristic.
Earthy: Slight moldy taste, caused by underfiring.
Greenish: Brewed tea is bright green in color. Not desirable, caused by either under-rolling or under-fermentation.
Malty: Malty flavor, desirable quality found in well-made teas. Tastes like steamed vegetables: slightly sweet and/or citrusy.
Mellow: Smooth, pleasant and rounded, opposite of greenish.
Smoky: Slight taste of smoke or tar. An example of a smoky tea is Lapsang souchang, in which the heat for drying is produced by the burning of pine.
Sweet: Pleasant taste, often smooth and fruity.
Thin: A brewed tea with little strength. Most commonly due to under-rolling, too high of temperature while rolling or allowing to wither for too long.
Vegetal: Desirable characteristic of green teas. Taste similar to steamed asparagus or slightly grassy.