Properly blending tea is truly an art form. This statement isn’t intended to be taken lightly, nor is it an exaggeration. You can’t just take a handful of different ingredients, throw them into a pot and expect to wind up with a successful blend of tea.
The goal of professional tea blending is to create a well balanced flavor and aroma using different teas, herbs, fruits, spices and other additives from different origins and with different characteristics.
The one most important rule of tea blending that must always be achieved is that every blend must taste the same as the previous one, so a customer will never be able to detect a difference in flavor from one purchase to the next. This is a very difficult goal to maintain but it is what separates the professional tea blending artists from the less skilled blenders.
Tea leaves are able to easily receive any aroma, which may cause problems in processing, transportation or storage, if not handled properly, but can also be an advantage if skillfully used to prepare scented teas.
Basic Varieties of Blended Teas
A Breakfast tea blend is usually a blend of different black teas that are robust and full-bodied, and go well with milk. Some of the more common types of breakfast blends include English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast and Scottish Breakfast.
Afternoon tea blends also, usually consist of black teas, however, they are generally lighter than breakfast blends. Both breakfast and afternoon blends are very popular in the British Isles. One of the more popular afternoon tea blends is Prince of Wales tea blend.
Another very popular tea blend is Russian Caravan. This blend has traditionally remained the same for several years, back when tea was transported to Russia from China on camelback. The blend often contains a bit of smoky Lapsang souchong, though its base is typically Keemun or Dianhong. Some also contain oolong.
Scented Tea Blends
Most premium tea blends are flavored and scented directly with natural flowers, herbs, spices and even smoke. However, some more specialized flavors and scents are produced through the addition of additives or perfumes.
Due to the number of different artificial methods of flavoring and scenting tea blends I am going to focus on premium tea blends that are created using only natural ingredients.
A variety of flowers are used to flavor tea blends. The most popular of these flowers used include:
Jasmine flowers are usually mixed into the tea blend while it is oxidizing, and occasionally some are left in the tea as a decoration. Jasmine is usually used to flavor green teas to produce jasmine tea, although sometimes it is also used to flavor light oolong teas.
Osmanthus tea is produced in China by combining the dried flowers with black or green tea leaves in pretty much the same way jasmine tea is. The flower gives tea a mild peach flavor and is the second most popular scented tea in China.
Rose buds are also added while the leaves are oxidizing, while also being left in the blend as a garnish and to intensify the scent and flavor. In China, roses are usually used to scent black tea with the resulting tea being called rose congou.
Chrysanthemum flowers are often brewed separately as a tisane but are also commonly mixed with pu-erh tea to make chrysanthemum pu-erh.
Lotus tea is typically a Vietnamese tea that is made by stuffing green tea leaves into the blossom of Nelumbo nucifera and allowing the scent to be absorbed overnight.
Mint is usually mixed with green teas to create blends that are very popular around the world and specifically in the Middle East and North Africa.
Citrus peels are more commonly used in Earl Grey tea which is made by infusing black teas with citrus or bergamot peel.
Smoke, specifically Lapsang souchong, is produced by drying black tea over smoking pine needles, producing a striking smoky aroma and flavor.
Spice tea blends such as Indian and Middle Eastern masala chai are flavored with sweet spices including ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cassia, black pepper, clove, anise, fennel, Indian bay leaf and sometimes vanilla, nutmeg and mace.
When it comes to tea blends the possibilities are seemingly endless for a talented blender to create true works of art. At ESP Emporium you have the ability to sample these truly amazing possibilities.
At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.