Often, people confuse astringency with bitterness. So, if it’s not bitterness, what is astringency? Astringency is a tasting term used to describe a specific mouthfeel. This differs from bitterness, because bitterness explains a taste - not a mouth feel - although they may seem similar.
Astringency is caused by tannins, which are found naturally occurring in tea, wine and coffee. It refers to that drying sensation that you usually can feel most prominently on the surface of your tongue. It gives your mouth a raw, sandpaper-like, rough feeling. This feeling comes when tannins shrink mucous membranes in the mouth.
Astringency is one of the six core tastes of Ayurveda. Sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, salty and pungent are all of them.
In tea, just like in wine and coffee, sometimes a slight taste of astringency is a desired feeling, or a sign of good craftsmanship. It’s what gives young raw pu’ers their edge, or hu gan, a cooling, almost minty sensation brought on by astringency.
Teas with higher levels of astringency tend to be: Assam black teas, Japanese sencha, first flush darjeeling black teas, lavender herbal tea, sage herbal tea, young raw pu’ers.
What are your thoughts on astringency? Let us know in the comments below!