There are some very useful tea terms that tea lovers use to communicate
aspects of mouthfeel. In looking for these sensations, you will improve
your sensitivity. Of course, such terms can also be misleading if you focus
on their meaning
rather than trying to feel the actual sensation in the mouth. It is enough
that you feel something, in other words.
You don't need to be able to articulate it, just understand the basics of
what you are feeling for now. These terms will help you
Kou Gan (口感): This translates as "mouthfeel". It refers to any of the
sensations we experience when
drinking tea. It points more to sensation than flavor, and most all the
following terms are parts of "kou gan".
Gan (甘) /Hui Gan (回甘): "Gan" is a coolness or minty-ness that fills up
the mouth, a bit like breathing
outside on a very cold winter day. (This is a different "gan, 甘" than the
"gan, 感" in "kou gan", discussed above. The same word with different tones occurs in tonal languages, to the confusion of us foreigners.) It
also sometimes refers to sweetness with a fragrance that travels on the
breath - cooling the mouth in this
way. We say a tea has "gan" when it stimulates the mouth with such a
freshness. With "hui" there is a "remembrance", borrowing from the literary
term "to reflect". This means the sweetness rises up from the throat
after the tea is swallowed. It lingers, in other words.
Hui Tian (回甜): This term is a clarification or distinction made to
separate the cool, freshness of "hui gan" from a sweet fragrance arising from the throat. When the sensation is
accompanied with a predominate sweetness, we call it "hui tian".
Nai Pao (耐泡): This literally translates as "patience". It refers to how
long a tea can be steeped; how many
infusions can be had from the leaves, in other words.
Sheng Jin (生津): This refers to a pleasant moistness caused by a tea. It
means the tea causes salivation
from under the tongue, and sometimes the sides of the mouth by the cheeks.
It also coats the mouth, like oil
Ruan (軟): This is the 'smoothness' of the tea. A good tea has the
texture of silk. It seems as if all the
atoms in the liquor are in the right place, coordinated and rounded. The
tea liquor all stays together and
is almost oily or gelatinous. It all slides down the throat together,
smoothly. Improperly prepared teas are
rough, as if the atoms are jagged, misplaced and scratchy.
Feng Fu (豐富): In tea tasting, this means "full-bodied". It means the tea
is rich and complex, deep and
subtle. The best teas have sensations, aromas and flavors that lead you
onward - drinking them for years,
you still discover new and amazing sensations. The best works of art are
always like this.
Cha Yun (茶韻): This is a very elusive term. "Yun" literally means "to
rhyme"; and "cha" is of course "tea".
When a tea has 'rhyme', it means it is well-rounded. A tea with "cha yun"
transforms in the way the best teas
do. A tea with "yun" splashes up to the upper palate, rolls down the throat
naturally and smoothly, coats the
mouth and throat, causes salivation and "gan". All the aspects of such a
tea are comfortable and fit together
the way lines of poetry do. Such a tea is, itself, a poem.
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