How do you compete in a crowded marketplace? One way some independent tea vendors employ is putting — uh, well, let’s call them “memorable” names on their teas. This is especially true when they come up with their own blends. That these names are memorable is a certainty. Whether they help you, the customer, make a meaningful selection is another matter.
Question: Can you tell by the name alone what is in these teas? (Answers at the bottom of this article.)
- “Act Normal”
- “The Labyrinth”
- “Arctic Fire”
- “Reformed Hipster”
- “Queen of Hearts”
Setting aside the names that tea vendors come up with, there are some rather strange tea names out there that have been in use for centuries. They aren’t so strange when you get to know a bit more about them. Chinese teas can be sold under their Chinese names (written out in our alphabet, not their character set) which can include the place of origin, or under an English name that is the meaning of the Chinese name. A few examples (with my own sort of “quirky” explanations):
Bing Cha = Cake Tea — No, there aren’t any cake crumbs blended in with the tea, but that would be a good idea to try sometime. This name indicates that the tea leaves were pressed into a cake (round) shape while wet and then wrapped up and dried.
Dong Tin Bi Luo Chun = Green Spring Snail — Ew, snail tea! Actually, it is more to do with what the dried leaves look like. Golden Bi Luo, also called Yunnan Gold, is an example.
Shou Mei = Longevity Eyebrow — Did you know that eyebrows could have longevity? Me neither.
Wu Yi Da Hong Pao = Big Red Robe — Buddhist monks tend to wear robes like this. Not sure what this name indicates about the tea, though.
Xian Ren Zhang Cha = Cactus Tea — Another one that has a misleading name. No cactus parts in the tea, so you don’t have to worry about those pointy jabbing spines that most cacti are covered with.
Yong Chun Fo Shou = Buddha’s Hand — No Buddhas were harmed in the making of this tea. The dried leaves just resemble a small hand.
Zhuang Cha = Brick Tea — Don’t worry, there are no bricks in this tea. The name refers to the fact that the tea leaves, while still moist, were pressed into molds or brick shapes that are then tightly wrapped so they dry that way.
A lot of Indian teas are named after the tea garden the tea leaves were harvested from. Names like Arya, Borengajuli, Giddapahar, Kambaa, Nonsuch, Risheehat, Singbulli, Sylvakandy, and Tarajulie appear on tea labels from the Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiri growing regions of India.
Then, there is that “Pekoe” leaf grading system that you see either after or as part of a tea’s name. For example, you might see “SFTGFOP.” What the heck is that? How strange! Actually, it’s quite simple, standing for “Supreme Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe” which indicates a very high quality flowery orange pekoe (FOP) with lots of golden tips. The “S” on Darjeeling teas indicates supreme light-colored liquid.
You’ll also see the terms “flush” and “clonal” in tea names. The “flush” is the time of year the tea leaves were harvested. Usually, there are three or even four flushes. The teas harvested in the first flush can be quite different from the teas harvested in the second (Summer) and Autumn flushes.
This should give you a start in figuring out some of those strange tea names.
Answer to the question at the beginning of this article
What those strangely-named teas have in them:
- “Act Normal” — a blend of high- and low-grown Ceylon teas
- “The Labyrinth” — a flavored Pai Mu Tan
- “Arctic Fire” — China black tea and blue cornflowers
- “Reformed Hipster” — a Ceylon-based spiced tea
- “Sock-It-to-Me” — a blend of several Chinese teas
- “Queen of Hearts” — a high-grade green tea
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