Hello there! You read blogs online? You’re hip? You drink tea? But…maybe are not familiar with the Chinese language! Fear not! This list – though not by any means comprehensive – may help you navigate those online terms. You too can practice them and be one of the hip kids on the corner!
Unfortunately I can’t help you with pronunciation. I do wish to address just one pronunciation and my one and only pronunciation pet peve: The pronunciation of “pu’er” It’s not poo-air. It’s just…poo and the letter “r”. Slur it together and you get pu-“r” Honestly it doesn’t really matter how you decide to say it, but considering there’s no other word for this tea in English, I figured I’d touch on how it’s pronounced in Mandarin Chinese.
Ok. Got that out of the way. Moving on, I will include Traditional Chinese characters, followed by romanized pinyin, and finally the English translation for a few common terms in the Chinese tea world.
- 茶湯 cha tang tea soup/liquor
- 生茶 sheng cha raw tea
- 熟茶 shu/shou cha ripe tea
- 香氣 xiang qi fragrance
- 苦味 ku wei bitterness
- 澀味 se wei astringent/astringency
- 苦澀 ku se bitter and astringent – bitterness being a flavor, and astringency being more of a feeling in the mouth, these words are often used together but are certainly different)
- 回甘 huigan returning sweetness – this is the most often seen online tea term it seems. The sweetness that returns or transforms in the mouth after swallowing your tea.
- 生津 sheng jin salivation – the salivation produced by your tea
- 水性 shui xing this is the feeling that the tea soup brings to your mouth. It can be expressed in many ways: including
- 滑 hua smooth
- 綿 mian silky
- 糯 nuo glutinous
- 厚 hou thicc
- 砂 sha sandy
- 薄 bao thin
- 利 li sharp
- 活 huo vibrant (lively)
- 喉韻 houyun aftertaste (roughly translated) in the throat. this one can also be described in many different ways:
- 甘 gan sweet
- 潤 run lubricating
- 燥 zao dry
- 水味 shuiwei this term is related to storage, generally speaking to undesired conditions or production leading to a weaker flavor. In some cases it may dissipate.
- 韻 yun aftertaste. Basically the same as 餘韻 (yuyun) describes all things (tastes and experiences) between finishing your current cup, and the next one. I personally like to call it the “afterglow” of a tea. The word for this in Chinese also happens to be very close.
- 渥堆 wo dui wet pile
- 堆味 dui wei wet pile scent/flavor
- 鎖喉 suo hou locking-up/closing the throat
- 藥香 yao xiang medicinal fragrance
- 樟香 zhang xiang camphor
- 陳 chen used when discussing an aged tea such as:
- 陳年茶 chen nian cha aged tea
- 陳香 chen xiang aged fragrance
- 陳韻 chen yun aged aftertaste
- 濃/淡 nong/dan strong/weak or deep/light
Obviously this list could go on and on. I figured adding a few things that might be commonly found could be useful.