Flavor or Aroma wheels were first developed by Ann C. Noble for the wine industry but was eventually applied to many specialty foods and beverages from truffles to tea. The concept is simple; the aroma wheel helps to provide vocabulary to consistently describe the aromas experienced within tea as well as providing a visual representation of how flavors can be combined for blending applications.
There are several tea-specific aroma wheels in circulation however one of the most commonly used for tea is that of the International Tea Masters Association (ITMA), seen below.
The center of the wheel starts off most generically within 10 groups (e.g. floral, spicy, earthy etc.) working its way over 3 levels to far more specific elements. It’s important to note that the elements on the wheel may not actually be contained in the tea (e.g. oak wood) but there may be a similarity to or even possibly shared chemicals that mirror the olfactory profile (smell) on a chemical level.
The aroma wheel can also be used for the purpose of creating blends where a common strategy is to choose a group (e.g. floral) and to combine flavors for a pairing by complimenting or enhancing within that group. An example of this may be to create an herbal tisane from various flowers on the floral base tone of a white tea.