Tasting Notes. A Primer.

You’re trying to choose a tea that’s right for you, but you just don’t know where to start. American Royal Tea has a helpful filter to guide you toward your new favorites.

Some of the filter choices may be unfamiliar to you, so I’m here to help you navigate the “tasting notes.”

Photo of a fashionably prim woman drinking tea.


Mmmmmm…chocolate… Most people have a pleasant response to chocolate because it’s reminiscent of childhood sweets. Chocolate has a deep roasted caramel flavor that’s smooth, slightly nutty, and sweet. The taste can come from fresh cacao (chocolate) pods, chicory, dried cacao, milk chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, or a coffee bean.


Citrus is a balanced crisp, sharp, taste that can veer between sweet and sour that we associate with juicy plump tree fruits like lemons, yuzu, oranges, pomelos, limes, and grapefruits.


There are edible flowers that leave their soft fragrance on the tongue. It’s a light sweet taste that fills the head with pleasant fragrance associated with the smell of the flower itself. Roses, jasmine, orange blossom, chamomile, and lavender are tastes that most people may recognize.


Malty is a sweet, nutty, yeasty taste that most people can associate with toasted bread or beer (i.e., the underlying “yeast”). There are some teas that are renowned and revered for their malty taste.


A warm, fragrant, bitter –and sometimes sweet– slightly “hot” taste on the tongue. Spice is more familiar in the Western world with winter scents and encompasses such spices as cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and nutmeg. In the Middle East and Eastern worlds it’s often associated with Chinese Five Spice, anise, South Asian Chai, white pepper, fenugreek, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns. African countries –especially in the north, east, and southeast– regularly use spice and floral flavors to enhance food and tea.


Verdant is probably not a well known tasting note to most people …but they have tasted it. It’s the grassy, green, fresh vegetal taste that’s associated with the green chlorophyll taste in plants and grasses. It’s bright, green, and fresh. Verdant is a flavor associated with the smell of freshly cut lawns. The taste can range from refreshing spearmint to parsley.


Yes, wine is a “taste” that isn’t just associated with wine itself. Wine is the musky, fermented (not yeasty), fruity (grape) taste associated with most wines. It’s often associated with damp fruit/herbs/flowers, and oxidation. It’s a complex, almost alcohol taste, but it doesn’t have any alcohol effects.


If you’ve ever walked through a wooded area in the early morning, then imagine that smell in a taste. It’s the taste of dewy bark of ancient trees, damp soil, and fresh leaves. There’s a deep rich soil smell like damp hay and ferns.

Hopefully, this descriptive guide will help you to select your new favorite tea!