Dear beloved blog readers,

The world of tea is as deep as it is broad. Almost every culture on the world has its own distinctive “brewed” and “steeped” beverages. Many, too, have a “tea” culture, one that centers on brewing/steeping/grinding/etc the leaves (and sometimes flowers and/or twigs) of the species of evergreen camellia, Camellia sinensis.

Already, I hope you can see that amidst the simplicity of tea, there also exists a complexity, of languages, lineages, histories, and taxonomies. To say that there is just “one” “tea culture” is to ignore the vast world and long story that tea offers us.

In the hopes to give a guiding hand and perhaps give some clarity into the words that are commonly used in tea, I offer a small (and growing) glossary of terms. As you will see, a lot of these terms are derived from the (oftentimes shared) lexicon of Chinese, Korean and Japanese languages. Whenever possible, if a term is used in multiple languages, I will try to give the “original” term in its native tongue, the text, and a brief etymological description.

As with any resource on language and terminologies, this, too, will not be definitive and may have its own “blindspots”. I leave it to you, my beloved blog readers, to offer your feedback and insights. Together, we can create something of value.

Thank you.


Alishan 阿里山 Ālǐshān (Mandarin): Located in Taiwan’s Chaiyi County, Ālǐshān is famous for its high mountain tea (高山茶 gāo shān chá). With tea growing happening at an elevation ranging from 1000 to 1600 meters, the tea produced has a notably complex and mellow flavor. This, combined with the rich soil and misty climate of the mountains, creates teas that bear qualities not found in any other of Taiwan’s tea producing regions, often making for a more full-flavored tea, often richer and bolder in finish when compared to other high mountain oolongs.

安南焼 (Japanese): The Japanese term referring to ceramic wares (oftentimes the distinctive blue-and-white wares) originally produced in Vietnam (Annam is one of the historical names for Vietnam, linked to its historical relation to the Chinese imperial court, translating into “Southern Peace”) and, eventually reproduced by Japanese potters. Typically, Annam-yaki features blue cobalt designs on a white ceramic base, usually featuring floral motifs, birds, fish, scrollwork, Buddhist iconography, text and patterns. Many of the designs were adopted and adapted from contemporary Chinese forms from the Yuán and Míng periods (1271-1644). While often imitating the more famous blue-and-white porcelains of China, Vietnamese wares became famous in their own right, with wide proliferation throughout Southeast Asia and up to the Japanese archipelago. As the designs which appeared on Vietnamese wares were typically looser, more playful, and, at times, more abstract, they became popular amongst the practitioners of the Japanese tea ceremony. Teabowls, with their distinctive high foot and outward flanged rim became highly prized, with imitations being made to meet demand. Variations in styles, colors, and motifs emerged, in Vietnam and Japan, and the style continues to be popular today.

Anxi 安溪 Ānxī (Mandarin): A region in southern Fujian province known for the production of 鐵觀音 Tiěguānyīn, one of China’s most revered oolong teas. Other lesser known teas produced include 毛蟹 Máoxiè (“Hairy Crab”) and 本山 Běnshān (“Source Mountain”) oolong teas.


Buncheongjagi 분청사기 (Korean): A form of traditional Korean stoneware with a characteristic grey/blue/green color. Vessels are typically brushed or coated with a white slip glaze. Decorative elements are sometimes added, either through incision or the application of iron pigment. The form emerged during the early Joseon period (1392-1897), developing out of earlier celadon forms popular during the Goryeo period (918-1392). Buncheong wares are often appreciated for their simple, understated, and rustic qualities, both in and outside of Korea.


Cháchuán 茶船 (Mandarin) (lit. “tea boat”): A vessel constituting of an open shallow bowl. This enables the tea brewer to pour water into the teapot and then over the teapot, allowing one to warm the teapot from both the inside and outside. As one continues to do this, steeping after steeping, the water in the tea boat begins to climb up the surface of the teapot. If skillfully done, this water will retain its heat and help to “push” additional flavors out of each subsequent brews. Especially on cold days, this is essential, as teapots can cool down considerably by the latent cold air.

Chadao 茶道 chádào (Mandarin)/chadō/sadō (Japanese)/다도 dado (Korean) (lit. “Way of tea”/“path of tea”): The “way” of tea as a way of understanding tea and life. The term “way” (道) being borrowed from Taoism (and Buddhism) as a path or means to approach a topic and/understanding, in this case, applied to tea. Also used to broadly describe the many different methods of making tea.

Chagama 茶釜 (Japanese) (lit. “tea kettle”): A spoutless cauldron for boiling water for tea. It has its origins in the ancient cooking pots and medicine cauldrons of ancient China. It eventually became a tea vessel around the time of the Tang period (618-907), evolving into a variety of shapes that are seen today in modern chanoyu. Rather than using a spout, water is ladled from the mouth of the cauldron into tea bowls. Iron is most commonly used to make chagama, however gold, silver, copper, and bronze were also used.

Chaire 茶入 (Japanese): A vessel for holding tea, usually 濃茶 koicha, “thick tea” for use in chanoyu. Typically made of ceramic, with a fitted lid made of ivory, bone, wood or ceramic, these containers originated as medicine jars. When used in the context of tea, they are often wrapped in a form-fitted 仕服 shifuku drawstring pouch, often made of silk brocade.

Chakin 茶巾 (Japanese): A rectangular white linen cloth used in chanoyu to cleanse “wet” objects (object which come into contact with water).

Chanoyu 茶の湯 (Japanese) (lit. “hot water for tea”): The name often used to describe the practice known as the Japanese tea ceremony. This practice evolved from earlier forms originating in Tang, Song, and Ming period China, as well as Goryeo and Chosen Korea, adopted and adapted by tea people of medieval and pre-modern Japan. While the core concept behind chanoyu is the simply make a bowl of tea (matcha), as an art, it leverages multiple disciplines and philosophies to transform the simple act of making tea into a skillful, mindful and meditative practice.


Chasen 茶筅 (Japanese; cháxiǎn in Mandarin): A whisk to whip powdered tea and water into a consistent concoction in 茶の湯 chanoyu (and, historically, in 點茶 diǎnchá of the Sòng period). Often made of bamboo, with a set number of tines (usually ranging from 60 to 80 to 100 to 120), often finely carved to thin and flexible tips, splayed apart into two sections (an inner core and outer ring) through weaving thread between the individual tines, with variations existing. Historically, it is known that by the mid-Sòng period, tea was being whisked with a specialized tea scoop (茶匙 cháchí). In his 茶錄 Chá Lù (“Record of Tea”, 1049-1053), 蔡襄 Cài Xiāng writes that this scoop should be heavy so it can be whisked with force and that it was optimally made with gold, though commonly with silver or iron. Bamboo was deemed to light to achieve the desired results. By the 1100s, this process had further refined, and so too did the equipage. Emperor 宋徽宗 Sòng Huīzōng described in his 大觀茶論 Dà Guān Chá Lùn (“Treatise on Tea”, 1107) the process and utensils for making a delicate bowl of 抹茶 mǒchá. In this, the stirring stick is replaced by a finely-crafted cháxiǎn (chasen in Japanese). In the hands of a skilled tea practitioner, a bright, creamy foam would arise, “lustrous like mounding snow”. This equipage was later adopted by tea practitioners in Korea and Japan and incorporated into their own methods of preparing powdered tea. In Japan, the ancient capital of Nara is still recognized as the center of chasen production, with lineages going back to the 1500s.


Dancong 單樅 Dān cōng (Mandarin) (lit. “single bush/grove”): A term used to describe a style of mid-oxidized oolong tea produced on 鳳凰山 Fènghuáng shān (Phoenix Mountains) in Chaozhou County, Guangdong Province, China. Grown at an elevation ranging from ~350-1560 meters (with Wudong Shan being the highest peak), dān cōng oolongs are cultivated to express very specific flavors. Common is the case that each single grove (or cluster of interrelated bushes and/or trees) will exhibit a similar flavor, unique to their varietal, specific geographic location, growing conditions, cultivar, and final processing. Dān cōng oolongs have a long history, with tea originally being produced in the region since the Song period (960-1279), and the style of oolong beginning in the Qing period (1636-1912), originally employing approaches to cultivation and processing passed from tea producers from Wuyishan in the neighboring province of Fujian. Tea is typically picked in early April, allowed to wither, and then are rolled and heated to increase oxidation levels of the leaves. Leaves are then “pan fried” to halt oxidation. Leaves are then twisted and dried in an oven, after which they are allowed to rest (often for several weeks, months or for an entire season) before a final roasting. The resulting flavors are often highly aromatic, with very specific notes ranging from flowers (orchid, citrus blossoms, rapeseed flowers) and fruit (lychee, orange, tropical fruit, peach, sour plum), to honey, incense, grass, or spices (cinnamon, warming spice), often with a long, lingering astringency.

Dashinjeon 茶神傳 (Korean) (lit. “The Story of the Tea God”): An 1830 text by Korean Seon Buddhist monk Cho’ui, describing the methods and practice of preparing and appreciating loose leaf tea.

떡차 ttetokcha (Korean) (“compresses tea”): A relatively rare form of Korean tea, ddokcha/tteokcha is a compressed tea. Unlike compressed 普洱茶 pǔ’ěr chá of Yunnan, China, ddokcha is picked, sun dried, steamed, and pounded into a pulp before they are then formed into a shape and dried (often aided with heat). This process may have its origins in the Tang period (618-907), when tea was processed in a similar manner. The pounding, pulverizing and compressing of the tea leaves give ddokcha its name, named after the pounded glutinous rice cakes of Korea ( ddok/tteok). Ddokcha is commonly shaped into the form of a ball, a flat cake, and egg, or a small coin. When present in multiples, the coin shaped teas are strung with grass or string through the center hole, which is pierced during the wet forming stage. Ddokcha has a unique medicinal bitter flavor, which mellows over time. This bitterness is mitigated by roasting the tea prior to consumption. Ddokcha is often boiled rather than steeped, often crushed before being placed into the pot. Today, ddokcha has seen a resurgence in popularity. Where once it was almost exclusively produced in the small tea farms of Buddhist monasteries, today it’s production has grown to include private farmers.


Diǎn chá 點茶 (Mandarin) (lit. “pointing/marked tea”): A method and manner of preparing tea popular during the Sòng period (960-1279), diǎn chá involved skillfully whisking and applying draughts of hot water (typically seven “pointings” of hot water) to powdered tea (抹茶 mǒchá) in order to produce a fine foam, oftentimes with a design upon the foam. Originally popular among the tea farmers and tea people (茶人 chá rén) of 建安 Jiàn’ān of Fujian, the practice eventually became popular with the literati and court of the Sòng. Competitions known as  鬥茶 dòuchá (“tea battle”) became the rage, again, first with the farmers of Jiàn’ān and, later, with the literati and the court. The growth in popularity of diǎn chá may have led to the further refinement of tea and tea culture during the Sòng period, inspiring further sophistication in the preparation and grinding of mǒchá (from mortar and pestle to the use of a stone tea mill by he mid-Sòng period), as well as in arts production, development of teaware and tea ceramics. Documents like 蔡襄 Cài Xiāng’s 茶錄 Chá Lù (“Record of Tea”, 1049) and Emperor 宋徽宗 Sòng Huīzōng’s 大觀茶論 Dàguān Chá Lùn (“Treatise on Tea”, 1107) discuss the finer points of whisking-up a bowl of mǒcha in the diǎn chá fashion, with the latter noting  that when prepared by the hands of a skilled tea practitioner, a bright, creamy foam would arise, “lustrous like mounding snow”. So widespread and popular was this method of preparing tea that it eventually spread to the courts of Korea and Japan. Echoes of this method of tea preparation can still be seen in 茶の湯 chanoyu in Japan. Similarly, recently there has been increased interest in reviving the diǎn chá method of preparing tea in China.



Futaoki 蓋置 (Japanese) (lit. “lid placement”): A rest for a lid, oftentimes made of ceramic, metal, or cut bamboo. Often employed to set the hot lid of the kettle (chagama, tetsubin, or sometimes a teapot) so as not to let it come in contact with the bare tatami, floor, or table surface, it sometimes is also used as a rest for the ladle (hishaku). Futaoki come in a range of shapes and sizes, from a basic cylinder shape to more complex abstract, figurative or sculpture shapes. Most futaoki are seasonal in design. A similar use of lid rests is seen in the traditional Korea loose leaf tea ceremony, where the teapot lid is set upon a rest when the teapot is left open. The historical precedent for this may be from the notion that setting a lid (either for teapot or kettle) onto a bare surface could lead to the collection of foul smells or impurities that could influence the flavor of tea and/or water for tea (one such example can be found in the Ming period text 茶疏 Chá shū, “Comments on Tea”, by 許次紓 Xǔ Cìshū, where he describes the practice of placing the lid of a teapot upside down or upon a rest or vessel).

Fukusa 袱紗 (Japanese): A square-shaped, double-layered silk cloth for cleansing of tea objects in chanoyu. This is used to “purify” tea containers, chashaku, and other “dry” items (as the fukusa does not come into contact with water).



Hatsugama 初釜 (Japanese) (lit. “first kettle”): The “first kettle” for the new year, held within the first few days after the New Year. During this gathering, an atmosphere of freshness is emphasized. Sprigs of new pine often greet the guests as they wait. In the tearoom, long arching branches of green willow rise from a single tube of freshly cut bamboo, tied into a single circular knot, representing the commitment to togetherness and camaraderie in the year to come. For teabowls, often two are offered, one of gold and one of silver, together poetically called 島台 shimadai, the Isle of Eternal Youth.

Hui gan
回甘 huí gān (Mandarin) (lit. “returning sweetness”): A positive sensory quality of tea where the flavor of the tea returns to the tea drinker after it is consumed, usually moments after sipping, re-emerging upon the soft palate, cheeks or throat. Similar to aftertaste, though more pronounced with a distinctive sweetness. Oftentimes, huí gān is more present in teas of higher quality and is used to discern the quality of a tea. Different tea types are said to have different qualities of huí gān, with oolong having the most present huí gān. Compare to 後韵 hòu yùn, “after rhyme”, which more generally refers to aftertaste, which does not connote positive or negative qualities.


Ido chawan 井戸茶碗 (Japanese): While modest in appearance, this type of bowl reflects a long exchange (sometimes peaceable, sometimes not) between Korea and Japan. Beginning in the 15th century, durable Korean ceramics imported to Japan were favored as “daily ware”. During the 戦国時代 Sengoku Jidai (“Period of Warring States”, 1467-1600), practitioners of 侘び茶 Wabicha (“rustic tea”) favored this teabowl so much that there was a famous saying that states “First Ido, second Raku (楽), third Karatsu (唐津)”. Subsequently, Japanese potters began to create their own versions of these bowls.


Jakseol 작설 (Korean) (lit. “sparrow’s tongue”): Sometimes known as 두물차 damulcha (lit. “second-flush tea”), jakseol is a Korean nokkcha that is harvested in Spring following 곡우 Gogu  (“grain rain”, 20–21 April) but before 입하 Ipha (“advent of summer”, 5–6 May). The names refers to the shape of the leaf, which consists of a tea bud that resembles a sparrow’s tongue.


Kintsugi 金継ぎ (Japanese) (gold lacquer repair): A popular method of repairing broken tea items with a compound of lacquer, substrate, and gold dust. The repair is meant to be visible, highlighting the break. This is said to heighten the sense of ephemerality of the object and life itself.

Kobukusa 古帛紗 (Japanese): A thick square of brocaded silk used to present a tea object.

Kōdō 香道 (Japanese/xiāngdào in Mandarin) (lit. “Way of Incense”): An art that originally has its roots in ancient Buddhist and pre-Buddhist incense ceremonies of India, Southeast Asia, China, Korea and Japan, the Way of Incense evolved from religious rite to a popular pastime of refinement, self cultivation and taste discernment of the quality of incense and tools for preparing incense. Becoming popular in Japan first in the Nara period (710-794), evolving during the Heian period (794-1185) and becoming a codified art during the 16th century, kōdō has had an immense influence on tea. From the way incense and incense utensils are used, held, cleansed, and shared, each were eventually echoed in the tea ceremony. Even the mentality of kōdō, which attunes the host and guests’ mind to the singularity of a moment, is present in tea.

Kōgō 香合 (Japanese): An incense container, often consisting of a base and lid, made of either ceramic or wood (though other materials such as metal or lacquered paper can also be used). Often used in kōdō or chanoyu for holding the unused incense prior to burning during a ceremony, the kōgō probably had its origins as a simple lidded container to hold cosmetics or medicine. As with many items in tea ceremony, kōgō often are seasonal in design.

Koicha 濃茶 (Japanese) (lit. “thick tea”): Powdered green tea which, when mixed with water, is whisked to a thick consistency. Koicha, much like usucha, has its origins in ancient China, probably originally served as a medicine during the Sòng period (960-1279). Koicha is made of the highest grade 展茶 tencha, which receives a longer period of shaded growth prior to harvesting. Koicha is typically carried into the tearoom via a 茶入 chaire. Koicha requires a higher tea to water ratio, modulated by the host during a chanoyu gathering based on the number of guests present and on the preference of the guest. A bowl of koicha is typically shared between multiple guests (compared to usucha, which is prepared for individual consumption). In chanoyu practice, koicha is considered to be more formal, whereas usucha is often offered in a more informal setting.

Kōro 香炉 (Japanese) (lit. “incense brazier”): A cup or bowl used to hold ash and charcoal, into or upon which incense is placed to be heated. Forms vary from ancient tripod vessels (鼎 dǐng in Mandarin) to simple cups made of glazed ceramic or metal. Small, handheld kōro are often utilized in modern kōdō ceremonies, while larger incense braziers are meant for stationary use.



(Japanese; Jiān in Mandarin) Chinese): Roughly translating to “gap”, “space”, “pause” or “the space between two structural parts”, Ma is found in all manner of ways, from a pause in action to the space between objects and the nature of a void. In the classic literati and Zen art of Japan, China and Korea, objects are often given their own space, surrounded by a significant amount of “emptiness”.

Matcha 抹茶/말차 matcha/maccha (Japanese)/mǒchá (Mandarin)/malcha (Korean) (lit. “powdered tea”): Powdered tea (usually referring to powdered green tea), originally consumed during the Song period (960-1279) in China. In this process, the tea leaf is powdered using a mortar and pestle or stone mill until it is fine enough to be suspended in water. The concoction is whisked, sometimes until the tea produces a light foam. During the Song period, the practice of consuming powdered tea spread to Korea and Japan. It continues to be regularly consumed in Korea and Japan, although it is now enjoyed worldwide. Matcha is the basis for Japanese tea ceremony (茶の湯 chanoyu).

Mizusashi 水差/水指 (Japanese): The cool water vessel used in 茶の湯 chanoyu, used to supply additional cold water to the 茶釜 chagama, and to aid in modulating the temperature of the boiled water to make tea.

Mushin 無心 (Japanese; wúxīn in Mandarin) (lit. “No Mind”): The notion of when form and attachment to outcome in practice fall away and the mind/spirit is liberated. This idea is not limited to tea alone, but can pertain to all practices, such as in the martial arts. It is often seen as akin to awakening or enlightenment, it can occur suddenly or gradually, where the practitioner has mastered the form, or at the very least, has mastered the self in the moment of action.


Nokkcha 녹차 (Korean) (loose leaf green tea): The General term for Korean green tea, usually picked and processed in a style similar to Chinese green teas (picked, sun-dried, and pan-roasted). Korean green teas are typically picked as early as April (before 곡우 Gogu, April 20-21), with grades categorized by leaf type and harvest time.


Oolong 烏龍茶 wūlóngchá (Mandarin) (lit. “black/dark dragon tea”): Any variety of mid-oxidized tea (roughly 10%-85% oxidized). Originated during the Ming period (1369-1644) as a method to further develop tea’s flavor through controlled oxidation. Varieties vary depending on tea cultivar, varietal, region, terroir, climate, maker, tradition, etc. Originally developed in Fujian province, oolong tea is now made throughout China (most notably in Fujian and Chaozhou county of Guangdong province), parts of Japan, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia.



Pào (Mandarin): To steep price to infuse. Referring to when hot water is applied to a material and is allowed to soak in order to extract flavor and/or color from the material. As it pertains to tea, historically, steeped tea (泡茶 pào chá) was officially mandated in 1391 by imperial edict of Ming Emperor 洪武 Hóngwǔ, which declared that 貢茶 gòngchá, tribute tea, would no longer be offered in cake form. Up until then, these tea cakes were produced to be pulverized and turned into powdered tea (抹茶 mǒcha), which would subsequently be whisked into a foam. By 1391, this earlier form had spread throughout much of China, Korea, and Japan. However, while steeped tea became more popular and more widespread throughout much of East Asia and, later, the world, there is a good cha very that steeped tea has always existed prior to this time. According to legend, tea was “discovered” by the mythical emperor and herbalist Shennong in 2737 BCE. In the popular retelling of the tale, he was suffering from exhaustion (some say poisoning) when a tea leaf fell into a pot of boiling water. We can deduce from this that earlier forms of tea, either as a beverage or as a folk medicine, could have been steeped.


Pǐn Míng Bēi 品茗杯 (Mandarin) (lit. “tasting tea cup”):  A small cup intentionally crafted to optimally taste tea. As opposed to 茶碗 cháwǎn (tea bowl), which have greater volume and may come in a variety of styles and colors, pǐn míng bēi are more generally smaller, thinner, and often times white (or have a white or near-white interior). The focus of the pǐn míng bēi is inherent in the name, it is to “taste” tea. In Chinese, “to taste” ( pǐn)  is different than “to drink” ( ), with the former being more focused and intentional, the latter being to quench one’s thirst and to generally drink to consume. The character “” is comprised of three mouth radicals ( kǒu), suggesting that when one “tastes” tea, they taste it three times. Classically, one appreciates tea in three ways, first the color of the tea, second the aroma, and, finally, the flavor of the tea liqueur. míng is the classical, archaic, and oftentimes poetic term for tea. It is mentioned as one of the early terms for tea in 陸羽 Lù Yǔ‘s (733-803) 茶經 Chá Jīng (760-762). The character is similar to chá, as both have the grass radical ( ()), and can refer to tea buds, late-picked tea, the tea plant, and the beverage. It can also refer to the best quality tea. This can also slightly alter the definition of pǐn míng bēi to mean “a cup to beat taste tea”. As noted, pǐn míng bēi are smaller and lighter in color. The size is meant to slow down the consumption of the tea. The light or white color is meant to offer a neutral background to enjoy the natural color of the tea’s liqueur. Famously, kilns such as 景德镇 Jǐngdézhèn produced (and still produce) teacups in this style, becoming widespread throughout much of China by the mid-late Míng (1368-1644) and ubiquitous during the Qīng (1644-1912). Famous styles emerged, such as the 若深珍藏 Ruò Shēn zhēncáng pǐn míng bēi, which are hemispherical, with a low profile, and made of semi-transparent white/bluish-white porcelain, often with cobalt blue or multi-color designs upon the outer surface.


Qing Ming 清明節 Qīngmíng jié (Mandarin) (lit. “Clear Bright Festival”): In early April, Qīngmíng jié is a day when families in China traditionally sweep the tombs of their ancestors and the day when green tea picking begins in earnest.


Ro 炉 (Japanese) (sunken hearth): A sunken hearth used in 茶の湯 chanoyu (Japanese tea ceremony) that is used during the cold months of the year from November to April. Depending on the layout of the tearoom, the ro will be located in any number of locations. Aesthetically speaking, the ro is considered to be more 侘び wabi, “rustic”, aa its origins are that of a simple sunken hearth for cooking and keeping warm in a kitchen or small hut. Similarly, the ro is often oriented to have both host and guest seated in a more casual and intimate manner.


Sencha 煎茶 (Japanese) (lit. “roasted tea”/“steeped tea”): Green tea grown in Japan that is steamed (as opposed to many Chinese green teas, which are pan roasted). Depending on the degree of steaming, different qualities will be present. These degrees are asamushi (浅蒸し), “shallow steamed” sencha, chumushi, “middle steamed” (30-90 seconds), and fukamushi (深蒸し), “deeply steamed” sencha (1–2 minutes).

Shincha 新茶 (Japanese) (lit. “new tea”): Green tea picked and processed during the first tea harvesting season (mid/late April to May). Often represented as the “first flush” (一番茶 ichibancha), it contains brighter and often more subtle flavors than later harvests.

Sookwoo 숙우 sookwoo/sug-u (Korean): A spouted bowl usually used to cool hot water before being poured into a teapot/onto tea. Similar in construction to the Japanese 片口 katakuchi (a lipped bowl) or 湯冷まし yuzamashi (a vessel used to cool water for tea).


Tetsubin 鉄瓶 (Japanese) (lit. “iron kettle/pot”): An iron spouted kettle for boiling water. Sometimes used in the Japanese tea ceremony (茶の湯 chanoyu). Has been adopted in other tea cultures. May have its origins in the spouted copper and brass kettles of Korea.

Tieguanyin 鐵觀音 Tiěguānyīn (Mandarin) (lit. “Iron Bodhisattva of Mercy”, or “Iron Goddess of Mercy”): An oolong tea from Anxi county in Fujian province in eastern China. Usually oxidized around 30-40%. Traditionally a single leaf, hand-rolled, and often roasted/baked and sometimes charcoal roasted. Tiěguǎnyǐn is typically harvested from Spring to Autumn.

床間/床の間 (Japanese)(“alcove”): An alcove found in Japanese residential architecture, particularly that found associated with the tea ceremony (数寄屋造りsukiya-zukuri, lit. “arbour architecture”, referring to a 茶室 chashitsu, “tea house”). This is often the location where a scroll is hung, or flower or incense or object of reflection is placed during a tea gathering. In some gatherings (depending on the occasion and size of the tokonoma, the space will be occupied by the first guest.


Usucha 薄茶 (Japanese) (lit. “thin tea”): A grade and preparation of matcha that produces a lighter, oftentimes foamy concoction of tea. Using 2-3 scoops of matcha (in Sōhen-ryū we use three scoops), the tea is then mixed with half a ladle’s-worth of hot water and whisked (some schools whisk to a light foam, others do not). The flavor is light and should not be bitter. Usucha is considered to be more informal and is served last in the order of tea made during a formal 茶事 chaji (tea gathering/tea ceremony), often with a dry sweet (干菓子 higashi).



Wūlóng 烏龍 (Mandarin) (lit. “black dragon”): See “oolong”.




Yánchá 巖茶/岩茶 (Mandarin) (lit. “rock/cliff tea”): A style of oolong/wūlóng produced in Wǔyíshān, Fújiàn, often exhibiting long, twisted leaves, which are roasted and higher oxidized (with oxidation levels around 50-75%). The term “rock/cliff tea” refers to the teas being grown on and around the craggy cliffs of Wǔyíshān. Production of this type of tea can be traced back to the Míng period (1368-1644), when tea farmers were experimenting with oxidation and roasting. However, Wǔyíshān has been a tea producing area centuries prior to then, famously in the 北苑 Běiyuàn tea gardens around 建甌 Jiàn’ōu during the Sòng period (960-1279). There are many famous yánchá, including the 四大名欉 Sì Dà Míng Cóng, which include 大紅袍 Dàhóng Páo (“Big Red Robe”), 水金龜 Shuǐ Jīn Guī (“Golden Water Turtle”), 鐵羅漢 Tiě Luóhàn (“Iron Arhat”), and 白雞冠 Bái Jīguān (“White Cockscomb”). Flavors of these teas range from light, floral, and fragrant to deep, spicy, incense-like, toasty, and carob/cacao, with a distinct minerality. Yánchá also classically are known for their distinctive 岩韻 yányùn, “rock/cliff rhyme” qualities, which include sweetness, fragrance, clarity and meatiness unique to these teas.

岩韻 (Mandarin) (lit. “rock/cliff rhyme”): A residual sensation, not limited to a tea’s taste alone. This, classically, is defined through five distinctive points found in all great 岩茶 yánchá of Wuyishan: 活 huó (liveliness), 甘 gān (sweetness), 清 qīng (clarity, pertaining to the liqueur and taste), 香 xiāng (fragrance), and 岩骨 yángǔ (lit. “rock bones”, as if the tea has substance or the heartiness of eating meat). When present, each is used to assess the quality of the tea when tasting the tea (品茶 pǐn chá).


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