Tea Dictionary

In this section of our FineLine Tea University, we aim to help define many terms and phrases in the world of tea in layman’s terms. Enjoy!

Types of Tea

All true tea comes from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The factors that determine what type a tea becomes are; where it was grown, when it was harvested, and how it was processed. A main determining factor during the processing is the oxidation stage which is when the leaves are allowed to absorb oxygen.

Black Tea – longer oxidation period allowing tea to become darker in color and develop its recognizable taste and aroma

Green Tea – generally described as unoxidized

Herbal Tea – known as tisanes, any beverage made from infusion of herbs, spices, or other plant materials. Distinguished from tea by being naturally caffeine free.

Matcha – finely milled or finely powdered Japanese green tea

Oolong Tea – semi-oxidized tea usually going through one of two methods of production resulting in green, balled oolong and dark, open-leafed oolongs. In general, oolong tea usually allows for several infusions.

Pu’erh Tea – traditionally comes from Yunnan province and made from large leafed tea, name comes from the market town in China where the teas have been traded for hundreds of years. Pu-erh is unique as it undergoes true fermentation and maturation resulting in a tea that it can be aged to improve flavor ( some purchase aged pu’erhs as an investment! )

Rooibos – technically not tea at all, rooibos, which means red bush, grows in South Africa. Gained popularity as a tea plant alternative when access to tea was difficult during WWII. Rooibos is once again, incredibly popular and desired.

Sencha – Japanese green tea that is made without grinding into powder like matcha

White Tea – traditionally, white tea takes its name from the tiny white or silver needs that grow on the buds of the tea plant. Originally white tea was only made in China, but it is now being produced in other parts of the world resulting in a variety of white teas. White tea is usually lighter and paler than other teas and thought to be higher in anti-oxidants.


Blackberry leaves – Blackberries are native to North and South America. The leaves contain a wealth of tannins and several vitamins, making the tea a great herbal supplement for your body and well-being overall. Blackberry leaves support cardiovascular health and serve as an anti-inflammatory. Antioxidants present in the leaves also make it good for preventing free-radicals from damaging healthy cells.

Black Pepper – Native to India, pepper has played a very important role throughout history and has been a prized spice since ancient times. Black pepper is the most pungent and flavorful of all types of peppers and comes from the berries of the pepper plant. It stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion. Black pepper has demonstrated impressive antioxidant and antibacterial effects, as well as, stimulates the breakdown of fat cells, keeping you slim while giving you energy to burn.

Cardamom – Spice with a very aromatic fragrance. Common ingredient in Indian cooking and in Middle East green cardamom powder is used as a spice for sweet dishes and as a traditional flavoring for tea. Chewing gum makers will use cardamom with the indication that it is used to neutralize bad breath. Green cardamom is broadly used in South Asia to treat infections in teeth and gums, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders. It also is used to break up kidney stones and gall stones.

Cinnamon – is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several trees from the genus Cinnamomum that is used in both sweet and savoury foods.Sri Lanka produces 80-90% of the world’s supply but it is also cultivated on a commercial scale in Seychelles and Madagascar. The pungent taste and scent come from cinnamic aldehyde or cinnamaldehyde (about 90% of the essential oil from the bark) and, by reaction with oxygen as it ages, it darkens in colour and forms resinous compounds. Cinnamon has been linked to lower blood sugar in people with diabetes, as well as, reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects, and fight bacteria.

Cornflower – They can be found all around the world but grow natively in only 3 regions in the UK. Some describe their taste as sweet or cucumber-like. They also have a long tradition in herbal and natural medicines as an anti-inflammatory.

Fennel – is a hardy, perennial umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feather leaves It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world. It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses, such as eye health, an effective diuretic for treatment of Hypertension, and used for chronic coughs.

Ginger Root – Ginger is grown in Asia and tropical areas; India is the largest producer. Aromatic, pungent and spicy, ginger adds a special flavor and zest to any tea. It has long been used as a remedy for numerous ailments from colds to cancer, as it is packed with a high-level of anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Its ability to decrease cancer cell proliferation and suppress mechanisms that initiate cancer cell activation are reason for why ginger has become a recent focus of research aimed at revealing its true therapeutic potential. Ginger also relieves nausea and vomiting because of its ability to disrupt and expel gas in the intestine.

Lavender – is an herb native to northern Africa and the mountainous regions of the Mediterranean. Lavender tastes just like it smells, very floral, light, sweet but it can pull a little bitter depending on the concentration (too much). Research has revealed that lavender may be useful for treating anxiety, insomnia, depression, and restlessness. Some studies even suggest that lavender can help digestive issues such as vomiting, nausea, intestinal gas, upset stomach, and abdominal swelling. In addition to helping with digestive issues, lavender is used to help relieve pain from headaches, sprains, toothaches, and sores. It is also used to prevent hair loss.

Lemongrass –  is native to India and tropical Asia. It is widely used as a herb in Asian cuisine. It has a subtle citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. Lemon grass is used as an addition to tea, and in preparations such as kadha, which is a traditional herbal ‘soup’ used against coughs, colds, etc. It has medicinal properties and is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine. It is supposed to help with relieving cough and nasal congestion.

Licorice – is native to southern Europe and parts of Asia.Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, which has a sweet taste, 30–50 times the sweetness of sugar. The sweetness is very different from sugar, being less instant and lasting longer. Properties of Licorice; Anti-ulcer, laxative, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, antitumour and expectorant, are some of the medicinal benefits that have been noted.

Peppermint – The plant, indigenous to Europe, is now widespread in cultivation throughout all regions of the world. It is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. Peppermint is commonly used to soothe or treat symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, indigestion, irritable bowel,bloating and even used in aroma therapy.

Rosehip – The rose hip, also known as rose haw or rose hep, is the fruit of the rose plant, that typically is red-to-orange, but ranges from dark purple to black in some species. Rose hips begin to form after successful pollination of flowers in spring or early summer, and ripen in late summer through autumn. Rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C content, one of the richest plant sources available. Rose hips contain plenty of lycopene, an important and strong antioxidant. Rose hips also contain some vitamin A and B, essential fatty acids, and antioxidant flavonoids. A study of a rose hip preparation for treating rheumatoid arthritis concluded that there was a benefit, apparently due to both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. Rose hips are used to help prevent colds and influenza.

Safflower – is one of humanity’s oldest crops, and is produced around the world in 60 different countries. Safflower has an aroma that is very rich, but more suf=ggestive of a sweet, chocolaty, tobacco. It is used in traditional Chinese medicine to alleviate pain, increase circulation, and reduce bruising. They are included in herbal remedies for menstrual pain and minor physical trauma.  In India, the flowers are used for their laxative and diaphoretic properties, and are also used for children’s complaints of measles, fevers and eruptive skin conditions.

Saffron – Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece. Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange colouring to foods. Saffron has a long medicinal history as part of traditional healing; several modern research studies have hinted that the spice has possible anticarcinogenic (cancer-suppressing), anti-mutagenic (mutation-preventing), immunomodulating, and antioxidant-like properties. Saffron stigmas, and even petals, may be helpful for depression.

Tulsi – is native to South Asia and widespread as a cultivated plant throughout the Eastern World tropics. Tulsi has a delicate yet invigorating flavor that is subtly minty, somewhat buttery, and mildly floral with a natural sweetness. It has been found that Tulsi has antibacterial properties and kills bacteria.