Tea Time Pt3 - Tasting Tea and Pastries

Tea Time Pt3 - Tasting Tea and Pastries

Feb 15, 2023

Johnathan Milton

Tasting Tea and Pastries

If you’d like to get the most out of this tea series, we suggest you check out our earlier blogs. If you need a refresher, feel free to go back to the previous blogs in this series Tea Time Pt1 - My Tea Time In A Box and Tea Time Pt2 - How to Brew Tea.

In this blog, we'll discuss how to describe tea and pastry flavor notes. You will learn a lot more about enjoying your tea perfectly and what compliments better to elevate your experience.

Tea has been a part of many cultures for centuries and is enjoyed in various forms all over the world. But did you know that tea pairs perfectly with other flavors? From savory bites to fresh fruits, tea can elevate your experience to something extraordinary. 

How to Taste Tea

Brewing a cup of tea is an art that takes practice and patience to perfect. However, it’s not enough to learn how to make tea - you must also know how to taste it as well. To help you appreciate the subtle nuances of each cup, here is a guide on how to taste the tea and characterize its flavors like a connoisseur. By learning the Tea J Tea method of tasting tea, you can evaluate your brews for aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel, allowing you to appreciate your tea beyond its flavors.

Evaluating Your Tea

The tea comes in different colors, shapes, and sizes, and each has its unique aroma, flavor, and taste. Let’s first walk through different tea characteristics in terms of its liquor, aroma, and taste.

Explaining tea Liquor Appearance: 

Each brewed tea has different appearances such as clear white, pale yellow, golden, yellow-green, green, orange, red, brown, or black and etc. Different types of tea liquor can be produced with various appearances through the art of brewing tea. Every kind of brewed tea offers a unique and distinct color, ranging from every color of the rainbow. These various liquor appearances can captivate their viewers, as each one provides a beautiful representation of its flavor. The art of brewing tea is even more distinguished when one considers the many different types of teas that can be brewed, such as black, oolong, green, hibiscus, butterfly pea, and white teas. Whether it be white or green tea liquor that you want to brew, the process remains the same. We recommend starting by observing the vibrant color that you see as your tea is steeped and appreciating it before taking your first sip.

Explaining the Smell and Taste of tea: 

Describing the smell and taste of tea is a skill that many tea connoisseurs have developed over time. With practice, anyone can become an expert in deciphering each cup of tea’s subtle notes. The tea aroma and taste can be categorized in many ways. Below we’ve collected a few of the most high-level categories that you can extract from a cup of tea. Remember that this list is not comprehensive to all the flavor notes you can smell or taste but it’s a good starting point for those of you who are just beginning to differentiate the various notes that can be extracted from the tea. Describing the smell and taste of the tea creates an immersive experience for the drinker. It helps build mindfulness as you’re drinking the tea and only then can you truly appreciate the artistry behind every cup of tea. 

Vegetal:  Tea is an incredibly versatile beverage that can be flavored in many different ways. One of the most interesting flavor profiles of tea is the vegetal flavor, which can range from grassy and herbal to a hint of hay. 

Floral: Floral tea has been enjoyed for centuries for its delightful and calming aroma. From the aromatic rose tea to the subtle lavender tea or jasmine, we cannot forget the exotic hibiscus tea. Floral teas offer a unique and pleasant experience that is sure to please. 

Earthy: The scent of a freshly brewed cup of tea can transport you to the depths of a forest or a fertile garden. Earthy tea aromas such as dirt, peat, mushroom, moss, and minerals can evoke memories of nature and its beauty. 

Fruity: Fruity teas are a delightful experience that can bring a bit of sunshine into your day. Berries such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries bring a delightful tartness that pairs perfectly with the sweetness of stone fruits like peaches and apricots.  Other familiar fruity flavors are citrusy lemons and oranges as well as tropical mangoes and pineapples.  

Nutty: The aroma and taste of a nutty tea are like no other. From peanuts to hazelnuts to chestnuts and sesame seeds.

Smokey/Woodsy: There is nothing quite like the unique and smoky flavor of the tea. The taste and smell can be described as burnt wood, BBQ, freshly cut timber, pine, or dry wood combined with the delicate scent of pencil shavings. 

Savory: Flavors of ginger, cardamom, peppermint, and black pepper are examples of savory. These ingredients can add an extra layer of complexity to your tea experience. 

Malty: Malty tea is described as a combination of caramel, chocolate, and burnt sugar. It’s sweet, nutty, and has a taste similar to that of roasted grains or dried fruits such as raisins. 

Sweet: Sweet tea aroma is an inviting and comforting scent that lingers in the air. It is a combination of honey and vanilla notes that evoke the feeling of warmth and coziness. 

Marine: The marine flavor is made up of seaweed and kelp. Its scent is a mix of salty and sweet, with a hint of earthy undertones. 

Animal: Animal flavors include the bold notes of leather and musk to the rustic scent of a barn and hay.

Mineral: This flavor note can be described as having the taste and aroma of iron, metal, wet rocks, and stones from the riverside. 

Explaining the Texture of tea: 

Tea is an incredibly complex beverage, with a range of unique flavors and textures. The texture of tea can be described as the sensation it produces in your mouth after taking the first sip. From velvety to astringent, smooth to thick, there are a variety of terms that perfectly capture the unique texture of each variety. By understanding the lexicon and definitions associated with different tea liquid textures, we can gain an appreciation for the subtleties that make each cup special.

Astringent: When you take a sip of tea, the astringent texture caused by tannins in the tea leaf can often be quite striking. This bitter taste is not only enjoyable for some but also provides a unique flavor experience. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in plants and when consumed have an astringent effect on your tongue and mouth. As such, this sensation can intensify the flavor of your favorite teas, providing you with a truly unique experience.

Full-Bodied: When it comes to experiencing a satisfying cup of tea, it is not only about the taste and aroma but also about the texture. A full-bodied tea has an unmistakable flavor and texture that lingers on your palate after drinking. The unique feeling of the tea in your mouth can be attributed to its full-bodied texture, which offers a remarkable combination of body and flavor. 

Watery: This texture is the opposite of full-bodied and this type of tea has no flavor. It is almost equivalent to drinking hot water. 

Smooth: Describing a tea with this word means that there is no harshness or astringency from tannins, just a sublimely mellow flavor that dances on your tongue and down your throat.

Soft: This also describes a tea that has no harshness or astringency from tannins.  Similar to smooth, it has a delightfully mellow taste. 

Medium: This means that the tea has some flavor but does not last long. The flavor disappears as soon as it is swallowed. A synonym for medium tea is semi-full-bodied tea.

Mild: Mild tea flavor is subtly sweet, with no astringency or harshness. White tea and yellow tea are examples of this. 

Rough: A cup of tea that has a rough texture in your mouth can be an unpleasant experience. The liquor of the tea is often astringent and can leave a bitter aftertaste. In some cases, the tea has been infused for too long and therefore produces a more intense flavor.

Dry: The dry texture of tea can leave an uncomfortable feeling in your mouth. After sipping a cup of tea, many people experience an itch or thirstiness in the back of their throat caused by the dryness. This sensation can range from slight discomfort to an intense craving for something wet and cool.

Vivacious: Vivacious texture describes a light liquor that has a delicate sourness that is not unpleasant to the palate. Its unique flavor captivates your taste buds and leaves your throat refreshed.

Tea J Tea Method of Tasting Tea (SIP, BITE, SIP)

Learning how to taste tea and pastry together can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. With Tea J Tea’s technique, you can easily learn how to maximize the flavor of both the tea and pastry with one bite and two sips. Here is our trick - sip, bite, sip! Sip the tea, bite the pastry, then sip the tea again before swallowing the pastry to allow the flavors to merge and harmonize.


To truly appreciate the flavor of tea, it's important to sip it slowly and savor each sip. By taking the time to really taste your tea, you can experience all its subtle flavors and aromas, and enjoy a more satisfying cup of tea. Sipping your tea is more than just a pleasant ritual - it's an opportunity to appreciate the complexity of each unique blend. Along our journey, we’ve developed a way to taste both the tea and pastry in a way that brings out the best from both items and would like to share it with you below: 

First, sip the tea to taste the flavor, smell, and texture in your mouth. Try to explain the flavors and textures that you’re tasting in your own words. The vocabulary guide above can help you but ultimately, what you taste may be different than what your tea companion tastes. 

Second, bite into the pastry and let the pastry fill your mouth with its’ flavor and textures. When tasting the pastry also note down what you’re tasting. In section #2, there is a guide on how to explain the flavors of the pastry. It is important that you make sure to still have some pastry in your mouth for the next step. 

Third, sip the tea again and this time let the pastry and tea linger in your mouth before swallowing. At this point, the tea and pastry should be mixed together to give you one of the desired results- tea accentuating the flavor of the pastry and vice versa or together the taste and texture of the tea and pastry complementing each other.

Appreciate Your Tea Beyond the Flavors

Tea is a form of art. It starts from the tea plants’ humble beginning. There is an art to cultivating tea plants, the various ways of manufacturing the harvested tea,  the interesting shape or style of the finished tea leaf, the many different ceremonial purposes of tea,  the unique cultural methods of brewing tea, to the thousands of tea flavors available. As you consume your cup of tea, we suggest trying to appreciate the journey of the tea leaf that’s in the cup of tea you’re drinking. 

Explaining dry tea leaf Appearance:

Understanding the terminology and dry leaf appearance of the tea is an important part of the tea-drinking experience. From white to oolong and black teas, there is a wide variety of dry leaf appearances, each with its own unique characteristics. Read more below to explore the terminology used in describing these dry leaves and explain how to identify them by sight.

Attractive: Tea that is expertly crafted with even color and shape. The leaves are in uniform color and size. To many seeking an aesthetically pleasing cup of tea, this is especially attractive. 

Chunky: Chunky is a unique and desirable trait for large-sized tipped tea. It refers to the size of the leaves, which must be larger than usual for a full-bodied flavor.

Even: Even tea is tea leaves that are cut into smaller pieces but still look roughly equal in size. It's a type of loose-leaf tea that provides an even infusion of flavor with each cup. 

Flaky: Flaky tea leaves are caused by poor withering or rolling of the leaves, resulting in an open and flat leaf structure. This makes the leaves very brittle and easily broken. This is in stark contrast to the well-twisted leaves associated with top-notch teas. 

Golden Tip: If you're a fan of tea, you'll want to start paying attention to Golden Tips! This type of tea is special because it contains an abundance of yellow or golden-colored leaves. The yellow and golden color indicates that the buds of the tea leaves are used to make these teas. 

Large leaf: In the westernized black tea grading system that uses the cut-tear-curl method of harvesting, these large leaves may not meet the market requirements. However, you can still enjoy a cup of well-crafted high quality loose leaf from China or any other country that produces the orthodox method of loose leaf black tea. 

Milled: Milling is the process of cutting and grinding tea leaves into fine particles. This process helps to bring out the aroma, flavor, and color of the tea leaves that could not be achieved with traditional methods. 

Mixed: Mixed tea is a unique blend of various tea leaf grades, carefully crafted to create the perfect cup of tea. It offers a wide range of flavors and aromas, allowing for a truly unique experience. Mixed tea provides more variety than single-grade teas and can offer an economical option for those who enjoy experimenting with different flavors.

Ragged: Ragged is used to describe the uneven and rough edges of leaves. This unevenness occurs naturally as a result of environmental factors, like drought or heat. Ragged leaves are a sign that something has gone wrong in the plant's life cycle and needs attention from its caretaker.

Small leaf: Opposite of large leaf in appearance. These teas tend to be smaller than the “standard” size. 

Stalky: Describes a tea that has a high ratio of twigs or branches compared to tea leaves. Stalk is not usually desirable; however, the Japanese have a type of tea that is composed of only twigs called “Kukicha.”

Twist: Refers to a well-rolled tea leaf appearance. The term is used to describe mainly oolongs, greens, and black teas. 

Well-made: A well-made tea is characterized by tea leaves of even color, size, and texture, which can be achieved through careful selection and processing. It is similar to the word ‘attractive’ when describing dry loose leaf tea.

Explaining wet tea leaf Appearance:

Wet tea leaves can provide an insight into the journey of the tea leaf, allowing you to gain a better understanding of its flavor and aroma. By looking at the size, shape, color, and texture of the wet leaves, you can gain valuable insights into their flavor and aroma.

Green: The appearance of green wet tea leaves is an indication of the freshness and quality of the tea. When brewed, these leaves retain their bright green color, giving off an appealing sight and aroma. This indicates that the tea makers were able to stop all oxidation on the tea leaves as soon as it was harvested to be able to produce a tea that’s vibrant green when brewed. 

Full-leaf: Refers to the wet tea leaf appearance that retains its entire leaf structure. For Oolongs, you can see up to the fourth leaf. 

Broken leaf: Opposite of full leaf. This wet leaf appearance shows the tea leaves that are broken into smaller pieces either by processing methodology or accident. 

Slightly oxidized: The leaves display a deep bronze hue in the corners, while the entire leaf is slightly green and brown in color. Oxidation gives the tea a different flavor and appearance. Depending on the level of oxidation on the tea, it will taste drastically different, and with its unique and distinctive appearance, it has become the go-to choice for those seeking fresh and flavorful teas.

Fully-oxidized: Fully-oxidized wet tea leaves and deep dark bronze/brown or even black colored leaves.  The process of full oxidation involves exposing tea leaves to oxygen for an extended amount of time, allowing them to gradually change color and flavor. This process ensures that the leaves are fully oxidized, leaving us with an exceptionally flavorful cup of tea.

Teas contribution to our daily life

Tea has long been a beloved beverage, enjoyed by people around the world. It is not only refreshing and comforting, but it also brings people together in a unique way. Drinking tea and sharing the experience can be incredibly enjoyable, as it provides an opportunity for meaningful conversations and connections. From its various health benefits to its calming effects, tea offers more than just an interesting flavor—it provides an experience unlike any other. Here are a few of the things we appreciate about drinking tea and sharing the experience with others.

Conversation Sparker

Tea is a great element for kick-starting any conversation. Brewing tea requires some patience while waiting for the water to boil. This slow process of brewing the tea creates an opportunity for striking up a discussion with your tea buddy!

Endorses Mindfulness & Calming Experience

Brewing tea ritualizes patience as it takes time for the tea to boil and then more time for the tea leaves to steep in the hot water. Drinking tea practices relaxation and is one of tea’s many benefits. Stress and anxiety can also be soothed with tea due to the presence of L-theanine, an amino acid that supports mood stability and is one of the primary reasons tea is so healthy. 

Tea Pairings

The perfect pairing of pastry and tea can create a delightful, soothing, and stimulating experience. The unique flavor profiles of teas can complement the flavor, texture, and aroma of the pastries; from light and grassy to dark and robust. Tea J Tea is proud to offer a selection of pastry and tea combinations that are designed to bring out the best in both. 

Tea is often served with cookies and crackers to enhance the experience. In this section, we’ll start by helping you understand the flavor and texture profiles of the pastries and how it all connects. 

Describing the Flavor of the Pastry 

Our pastries are made to make you experience a flavor that is like no other. From the light, fluffy texture of our cakes to the crunchy and sweet flavor of our cookies, we have something for everyone. Our pastries are full of flavor and will leave you wanting more. Let’s take a look at some of the flavors you can experience with each one!

Buttery Notes: Describes a smooth buttery with a hint of salty flavor. 

Creamy Notes: Describes some delightful creamy notes. It melts in the mouth instantly and leaves a milky aftertaste.

Floral Notes: Describes a sweet and sometimes slightly bitter flavor of flowers. 

Fruity Notes: Encompass the flavor of citrus or tropical fruits or the staple flavors of apples and bananas.

Honey Notes: Gives the pastry a naturally sweetened flavor.

Nutty Notes: Describes the taste of peanuts, hazelnut, chestnuts, or almonds for example.

Chocolate Notes: Combination of creamy, buttery, sweet, and bitter sensations of the cacao. The percentage of cacao will affect the flavor of bitterness.

Savory Notes: Describes a sweet and tangy or even spicy flavor.

Roasted/Toasted Notes: Describes a flavor that is just before burnt. 

Describing the Texture of the Pastry

When it comes to pastries, the texture is just as important as the flavor. In this section, we'll go into detail about describing the texture of each pastry. By understanding these textures, you can better appreciate each pastry and its unique qualities.

Crunchy: Describes a crisp and solid texture. 

Soft: Describes a mild texture, and doesn’t require much chewing or crunching.

Hard: Describes a pastry that is tough to bite through. Examples: Hard candy-Jolly rangers

Flakey: Describes a pastry that breaks apart easily. Examples: mille-feuille or croissant 

Chewy: Requires consistent chewing similar to chewing gum and may be sticky as well. 

Dry: Describes a pastry that leaves your mouth feeling thirsty and wanting a drink. 

Moist: In contrast to the dried texture, its flavors keep your mouth and throat moist.

Tea J Tea Pastry and Tea Combinations

The perfect combination of tea and pastry is something that can take your taste buds on a delightful adventure. We have done research and tastings to create unique pairings of tea and pastry to provide our customers with an experience like no other. Our favorite pairings capture the flavor and texture of both the tea and pastry – allowing you to experience all the nuances each has to offer. Below are some of these wonderful combinations that we hope you enjoy!

Buttery notes & Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea

Tie Guan Yin Oolong tea tastes floral and has a full-bodied mouthfeel. The tea has a soft and smooth texture with little astringency. Buttery notes in shortbread cookies provide a robust, crunchy flavor. It goes well with refreshing oolong tea, providing you with a crispy taste along with the freshness of oolong tea.

Sweet and Sour fruity notes & Pu’erh Tea

Pu’erh teas have a deep, rich flavor that many consider earthy or similar to mushrooms. These pu’erhs often pair well with slightly tangy tastes such as dried fruits. We’ve found that sour yet sweet flavor counteracts the pungent earthy flavors.  

White tea & honey notes

Its flavor is typically described as lightly floral and refreshing with a hint of sweetness. Some white teas (such as Shou Mei) have nuttier and earthier notes and sweeter honey flavors. Pastries that have a soft and semi-sweet texture can amplify white tea’s flavor. We would pair some honey graham crackers with this type of tea.

Roasted/Toasted notes & Black Tea

Black tea flavor profiles include smoky, earthy, spicy, nutty, citrus, caramel, leather, fruity, and honey notes. Compared to white tea, black tea tastes bolder and more astringent. The crunchier and drier taste of toasted notes or the soft & chewy honey flavors complement best with black tea to make it less astringent. So for generic black teas that have the fruity sour back-of-the-mouth taste, we would pair them with some nutty and chocolate snack bars.


Go back to the previous blogs in this series Tea Time Pt1 - My Tea Time In A Box and Tea Time Pt2 - How to Brew Tea.

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