Describing Muscatel

Muscatel is an elusive taste found in some Darjeeling teas, most likely second flush teas. It is very hard to describe the taste in words, but it is easy to recognize the taste once you are familiar with it. James Norwood Pratt goes as far as saying that in tea, muscatel “denotes a unique muscat-like fruitiness in aroma and flavour.” Rajiv Lochan, owner of several tea gardens in India and CEO of Lochan Tea Ltd remarked that muscatel is “very difficult to describe but it is something extraordinary and rare.”

I asked my tea friends how they would describe this elusive taste and these are the responses I received:

@JRscherer: dried raisins with a hay like finish

@anielozh: sweet cantaloupe with some honey drops

@onetarot: a hint of plum pulp and tobacco

@SbonnerABV: a light fragrant note of fresh grapes with a hint of lychee

@michaeljcoffey: a mix of aromatic woodsy and sour elements, with a complex after-aroma

@WorldofTea: a spicy deep fruit taste, almost grilled-peach in nature

Bo from Facebook: wine, wet fallen leaves & the smell of cedar bark

Sonam Lama: The Dry leaves of a true Darjeeling muscatel fills the air with aromas of burnt sugars or sweet caramel.When steeped it imbibes a strong dry rosy perfume like aroma and finally while slurping it attacks the palate with a toasted buttery note with a sweet honey like finish that lingers on and on.Muscatels have strength in colour,body and taste.)

Maybe muscatel is something that should be silently enjoyed and perhaps we shouldn’t even try to describe it, but I think it was a fun exercise.

How would you describe the muscatel taste?


About the Author:

Tony has been studying tea for over ten years and has traveled to many tea producing regions throughout Asia. His book, "Tea: A User's Guide" is available now.


  1. A Sood November 14, 2017 at 12:05 am - Reply

    Very distantly related to ” agar agar ” very very mild !

  2. Dirk Wolters August 25, 2017 at 5:24 am - Reply

    In Dutch, the spice ‘nutmeg’ is called ‘nootmuskaat’, which in English would translate as something like ‘muscat nut’. I am currently drinking an Ambootia second flush tea that I feel has a distinctive muscatel character, and indeed there is a spiciness there, especially in the finish and lingering taste, that makes me think of nutmeg. I wouldn’t say this Darjeeling tastes like nutmeg, since there is so much more in there in terms of body, floweriness and sweetness, but I find this ‘hint of nutmeg’ useful when I describe a tea like this.

    • Jordan G. Hardin September 6, 2017 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      Very interesting! I had no idea of that translation, but it does somehow ring true. Thank you for letting us know.

  3. Manu Sharma March 19, 2016 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    I agree with many items described above… to me Muscatel smells like somewhere among … dry rose/peach/ginger/cedar/tobacco

  4. Bil June 7, 2015 at 6:31 am - Reply

    Just an FYI that I referenced your website today.

    Hope that is okay with you.

    Your page on describing Muscatel was perfect for something i wrote on Facebook.

    if this is in any way a problem, let me know and i’ll remove the link.


    Bil Silliker

  5. Sarah August 20, 2012 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Does anyone else find a wilted/waterlogged lilac taste in their tea? I come across it from time to time and am wondering if that’s a face of the mysterious muscatel. I don’t usually drink black tea, though, so if it’s not found in green/oolong/pu’erh then I’m probably catching something else.

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