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Sereni-Tea: Seven Sips to Bliss

Glossary of Key Terms

Agony of the leaves—in observing the leaf’s "agony" (the process of the leaves unfurling) the quality of the tea’s liquor can be predicted. This process reveals whether or not proper procedures were followed in the preparation of the leaves.

Afternoon Tea—a full service, mid-afternoon light meal, offering a variety of teas, small sandwiches and several fancy sweets.

Anhui—one of the major tea producing provinces in China.

Antioxidants—nutrients derived from certain plants, foods, vitamins, minerals and enzymes that help neutralize the effects of the oxidants or "free radicals." White and green teas are rich in antioxidants, but they are present in all teas.

Aroma—the characteristics of the fragrance of a fully steeped tea, derived from the natural essential oils in the leaves.

Artisan Teas—hand-sewn tea leaves that start as a ball or in other shapes and open in hot water to "blossom" or "flower." Can be full-leaf white, green or black tea leaves wrapped around a flower or group of flowers. These are very showy and appealing.

Assam—high-grade black teas grown in the state of Assam in northeast India, with a rich, strong, malty flavor, deep red color, and great with milk.

Astringent—the dry taste left in the mouth after drinking teas.

Autumnal—tea produced and harvested late in the growing season.

Bergamot—an essential oil from the bergamot orange rind originally added to black teas, Earl Grey being the most famous, and is now blended in other tea varieties as well.

Black Tea—tea leaves that have been withered, spread to dry, crushed and oxidized fully to a brown color, and sorted into grades. Most of the tea drunk in Europe and North America today is black tea.

Blend—teas of several types, or separate batches of tea combined for consistency of flavor, or for new flavors.

Bloom—a tea tasters’ expression to describe sheen or luster present to the finished leaf.

Body—the fullness of properly grown, processed, stored and steeped tea.

Brick Tea—steamed and fully compressed tea leaves shaped into bricks for ease of transport and preservation. At one time, tea bricks were used as currency; today they are still available in very creative designs.

Broken—leaves that are processed through a cutter, or broken during handling thereby, reducing their size.

Caffeine—the stimulating compound found naturally in tea and originally called "theine." Amounts can be controlled by the steeping time—less steeping, less caffeine. Additionally, the more oxidized teas have more caffeine.

Catechins—a class of powerful, water-soluble polyphenols or antioxidants that are easily oxidized by the body, thus enhancing the immune system. Catechins are found in all teas.

Camellia sinensis—the botanical name for the subtropical evergreen plant from which all teas come.

Ceylon—the former name of Sri Lanka that now refers to the teas from that country.

Cha—the word for tea in Japanese.

Chai—a strong, spiced black tea usually mixed with milk and sugar, originating in India and known there as Masala.

Chamomile "tea"—one of the most popular herbal infusions, reputed to relieve stress, anxiety and indigestion.

Chest—a wooden container with an aluminum lining used for shipping tea.

Cream Tea—a term ordinarily used in tea rooms to refer to a small sampling of fruit and/or sweets served with tea.

CTC—a manufacturing term, short for "crush, tear and curl," for the process used with certain leaves to create stronger infusions.

Darjeeling—a region in the Himalayan foothills in northeast India famous for teas of exquisite bouquet, complex flavor and high astringency—commonly referred to as the "Champagne of Teas."

Dragon Well—a fine green tea grown in China with an herbal aroma and toasty flavor.

Dust—the smallest broken leaves left after processing, usually used in teabags for quick infusions.

Earl Grey—a black tea flavored with bergamot oil and named for the British Prime Minister, Earl Grey, who was awarded the recipe from a Chinese diplomat in the early 19th century.

EGCG—(Epigallacatechin gallate) is the most powerful and most abundant of the four major catechins found in green tea. Antioxidants found in EGCG work to destroy free-radicals.

English Breakfast—a blend of several black teas, usually served at breakfast with milk and sugar for a gentle caffeine lift.

Estate—the property on which tea is grown; also known as a plantation.

Fair Trade—a certification qualification for the estate growing and processing the tea leaves; it ensures good quality-of-life standards for the workers.

Fannings—the tiniest particles sifted from good-quality grades primarily used in teabags.

Fermentation—the process of oxidation that takes place in the green tea leaves to create oolong or black teas.

Firing—rapidly heating the leaves to stop the oxidation process.

Flavonoids—a part of a group supplying the polyphenols (the antioxidants) found in teas. The most commonly referred to of this group are catechins.

Flavoured Teas—are any teas that have been scented and accented with spices, flavourings, and/or oils.

Flush—usually referring to the times of harvesting the young leaves, the first flush being in the early spring, and the second flush in late spring/early summer, with later flushes having stronger flavors.

Formosa—the island known today as Taiwan where many oolong teas are produced.

Full—description of a strong, vibrant tea infusion.

Gaiwan Cup—a Chinese saucer, bowl and lid made of porcelain.

Gaiwan Service—with one hand all three pieces are held securely while the lid is adjusted enough to pour out the infusion leaving the tea leaves in the bowl.

Genmaicha—is Japanese green tea with toasted rice.

Gong Fu—(Gungfu) a style of steeping tea in China that involves short infusions repeated many times in a small pot.

Green Tea—lightly fermented or oxidized young leaves that are heated or steamed to halt the enzymes from breaking down, then rolled and dried; low in caffeine, light green in colour, bold vegetal taste, usually from China or Japan.

Gunpowder—young green tea leaves rolled tightly into small pellets that look like gunpowder and unfurl as they steep.

Gyokuro—a high-grade Japanese green tea grown in the shade; translates to "pearl dew."

High Tea—a late-afternoon meal traditionally served with meat and other dishes, commonly confused with "afternoon tea" but much less fancy.

Hojicha—a roasted Japanese green tea.

Jasmine—tea, usually green, scented with jasmine flowers. Higher-quality teas are rolled by hand into pearl-shaped balls usually referred to as "jasmine pearls."

Keemun—a fine grade of black tea from China with hand-rolled and twisted leaves. Highly aromatic and can usually be detected when blended with other teas.

Kenya Teas—a growing and expanding tea producing area of Africa that is a large exporter of black teas and uses no chemicals in the growing process.

Lapsang Souchong—a smoky-tasting black tea from China, where the leaves are placed over a fire of pinewood or pine needles.

Liquor—the term used to describe the water after the tea has steeped, referring to the colour and clarity. Sometimes is called the "cup" or the "infusion" also.

Matcha—a finely powdered green tea from Japan, used in their tea ceremonies, with a bright green liquor, slightly bitter taste and high in antioxidants.

Nilgiri—a black tea from southern India that flavors and blends well. The name refers to the mountain region of that area and the color blue.

Nose—the aroma of the tea.

Oolong—a semi-oxidized, larger-leaf tea in-between green and black—stronger than green, smoother than black—extremely flavorful, highly aromatic, and may be rolled or twisted; directly translated means "Black Dragon."

Orange Pekoe—(pronounced "peck-oh") a grade of large, whole-leaf black tea specifying only size and has nothing to do with the flavor of orange.

Pan-Fired—leaves that have been steamed then rolled in iron pans or woks over a fire.

Pekoe—(peck-oh) a smaller, whole-leaf tea made from the youngest leaves and buds, which often have white hairs or a downy appearance.

Plucking—the process of harvesting by cutting the leaf from the growing bush, usually done by hand.

Polyphenols—the astringent compounds found in teas. They are a group of vegetable chemical substances shown to be strong antioxidants with potential health benefits. Higher amounts are found in white and green teas.

Pouchong—a scented, large-leaf tea, very light and floral, usually from Taiwan

Pu-erh—(poo-air) usually from the Yunnan province of southwest China. Damp green tea leaves that ferment microbiologically to a black leaf resulting in a very earthy and musty, but smooth-tasting tea. Usually aged and pressed into cakes.

Rolling—the crushing of the tea leaves to activate the enzymes to begin the oxidation process, after which the leaves appear to be curled when dry.

Rooibos—(roy-bus) a plant from the legume family which means "red bush" that is from South Africa; caffeine free, usually red but can be green, (when not roasted) very mellow, and can be blended with teas or other herbs, or flavored.

Scented Tea—is any tea that is flavored by the addition of essential oils, fruits and/or flowers.

Sencha—is Japan’s most popular and widely drunk green tea.

Souchong—large-leaf teas plucked from the third and fourth leaves of the tea plant.

Tannin—an astringent substance that occurs naturally in some plants. Tea leaves provide a particularly high source. Because of their tannins, tea leaves steeped for long periods can result in a bitter taste unrelated to tannic acid polyphenols of other plants.

Theaflavins—the polyphenols from well-oxidized black teas that provide high antioxidant health benefits.

Theanine—an amino acid, unique to tea.

Theine—is a synonym for caffeine.

THÉ—the French term for tea.

—another term for tea.

Ti Kuan Yin—a very good quality, highly desirable and fragrant oolong tea from China, which varies in color, has a strong and rich flavor, and translates to "Iron Goddess of Mercy."

Tippy—a term added to the grade of tea if, during harvesting, some of the top two leaves have a golden or white tip.

Tisane—(tea-zan) refers to an infusion made from the leaves, fruits or flowers of various plants.

White Tea—true white tea is an expensive tea that originally came from a rare variety of the Camillia sinensis. Now it refers to any young tea leaves or buds that are only withered (air dried.) When steeped, white tea has a very smooth and light, almost floral taste and is always delicate. White tea is believed to contain more antioxidants than any other tea. It has a soft, white downy appearance.

Withering—a process by which, after the fresh leaves are picked, sorted and weighed, the leaves are left to air dry, allowing the moisture content to be controlled before rolling and processing, thus preventing the breakage of the leaves.

Yixing—(ee-shing) the name of the Chinese pottery derived from a natural purple clay, from which unglazed and highly prized teapots are crafted. The teapots are excellent for black and oolong teas because they hold the heat for long periods of time. They are not recommended for white and green teas.

Yerba Maté—the Spanish name of a holly tree that grows in the forests of South America. Its leaves are made into a hot or cold beverage. Extracts of the plant are now being used in many dietary supplements for weight loss. It is a stimulant but often referred to as an herb. It is usually drunk from a hollowed-out gourd in trendy shops.

Yunnan—a province in southwest China that produces the majority of Chinese black tea and that is believed to be where the original wild tea plants grew.