Commonly-used tea terms from Asia

  1. Ming Qian:  Pre-Ming, literally, before the Ching Ming Festival. This is a Chinese term referring to the same grade of leaves as First Flush. Since Ching Ming Festival occurs around April 2nd to 6th of each year, the late March, early April teas are considered the utmost quality, and is priced by the day. The later the date of plucking, the less expensive. Generally, Pre-Ming is a grade designated for green teas like Longjing (Dragonwell), white teas, and some high value oolongs.
  2. Cha Qing:  Pronounced Ching (the Q is a ch sound), Cha Qing refers to the raw material green leaves that have just been plucked. It is very important what day, what time, what elevation, which side of the hill, and even who, picked these leaves, which determines the quality and grading and pricing of the finished product.
  3. King’s Grade (Cha Wang):  This grade has no solid definition, other than what is determined by the producers as the top utmost grade that is suitable to be gifted to the King in ancient times, and today, to the Communist Party officials in China. Cha Wang is also the grade most likely to be contributed to the competitions and most likely to win first place.
  4. Umami: The taste defined as the 6th taste, that is loosely considered as savory-sweet. A broth like, rich, full of aminos, viscous texture with a vegetable sweetness and a kelp savoriness. This umami taste is most pronounced in Japanese green teas, most notably, from regions like Uji.
  5. Gaiwan: A 3-part vessel for tea steeping, with the bowl, lid, and saucer, invented by the Chinese some many hundreds of years ago. The gaiwan is made with glazed porcelain, and is usually a universal vessel suitable for steeping any tea. The lid serves to filter out the leaves as one can either pour, or drink directly, from the gaiwan.
  6. Yixing: A region in Jiangsu, China, known for the ores that produce clays suitable for making the unglazed teapot, the original teapot in the world. These clays include the famous Zhisha, or purple sand, clay, which is porous and full of metals, allowing the teapot to breathe and regulate the temperature of the tea being steeped. It is purposeful for extracting connoisseur level teas like Oolongs.
  7. Gan: Loosely translated as bittersweet, but not quite. Gan describes the taste of slight bitterness that turns into a vegetal sweetness in one’s throat long after the tea has glided past.
  8. Chasen: The bamboo whisk, often of 100 tine standard, used to whisk matcha green tea to create an aerated, frothy beverage, appreciated in the Japanese tea ceremony or in everyday consumption of matcha.
  9. Oxidation:  When the cellular walls of the tea leaf is bruised or broken, the interaction of iron in the leaf exposed to air/oxygen, creates an oxidized process. This chemistry change enables the aromatic essential oils, solubles, caffeine, tannins, and other substances to move out of the leaf into your cup. The level of oxidation usually denotes the darkness of the tea. Oolong teas range from 20% to 80% oxidation, black and red teas from 80% to 100%, where green teas are unoxidized.
  10. Fermentation: The introduction of bacteria, like composting, into leaves that have been either slowly heated by the atmosphere (humidity), called natural fermentation, or by artificially created post fermentation in heated rooms. This process is applied commonly to Pu-erh teas.
  11. Whole Leaf:  This term should refer to unbroken, intact, leaves. only, but often, commercial tea companies will refer anything that is not broken and cut leaf to be Whole Leaf. For our purposes, we exclude those from this standard. The reason is because any breakage in a whole leaf tea introduces a lot more astringency, and less ability for the leaf to deliver its full spectrum of aromas and flavors.

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