Tea is incredibly diverse in terms of aromas and flavours but they’ll always fall into two categories: pure tea and blended tea.
The majority of teas are blends like chai, Earl Grey or jasmine. The range covers every possible demand, from lighter flavoured teas made with a single flower or herb, to the heavier, more complex teas designed to mimic a certain food such as gingerbread.
Below, we touch on what you need to know when it comes to blending tea; where to start, what works, what doesn’t and how you go about brewing a tasy, aromatic cup for yourself.
Relax, you don’t have to own a large garden growing several herbs and spices to do pursue any of the following!
What are tea blends?
Blended teas, simply put, are teas with more than one ingredient. Blended teas tend to have a more complex taste thanks to the addition of these ingredients, which can be fruit pieces, oils or blossoms. They aren’t always natural, either: many tea companies add synthetic flavours and additives to tea blends.
Though some tea blends are made with fruits or herbs, the majority of tea blending is done with regular black tea. There can be around 35 different types of tea in black tea. In modern tea factories, the recipe is put into a computer so that the exact amount of each tea can be placed into a large blending drum. The drum will then rotate the mix together. Most tea bags are made up of fannings, a grade of tea which is very easily mixed together.
What is pure tea?
Pure tea is any tea made from a single type of plant. So, something like chamomile will only contain chamomile blossoms. And a tea like Dragonwell, will only use leaves from the Camellia sinensus tea bush.
The argument between pure and blended tea is down to personal preference. A blended tea offers the same pros as a cocktail would. A consumer can enjoy several flavours for the price of one, and experience a host of notes that you wouldn’t be able to get with pure tea.
On the other hand, a pure tea’s appeal is in the enhancement of a singular ingredient. Free from any possible additives, pure tea rewards a consumer with a natural and unique taste.
And then there are the health benefits. Studies show that drinking tea increases endurance during exercise and your ability to burn fat. It’s also been found to reduce the risk of heart attacks and different kinds of cancers thanks to the number of antioxidants in the average brew.
What is the most popular tea blend in the world?
Earl Grey is the most popular tea blend in the world. Its unique taste comes from blending oil of bergamot with black tea. Before, Earl Grey was made from black teas like Chinese Keemun and expected to be consumed without milk but companies now offer Earl Grey made from stronger teas like Ceylon which is better paired and smoothened out with milk or cream.
The exact origin of Earl Grey remains up for debate, though most of the time it is attributed to Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, who was the British prime minister between 1830 and 1834. One legend has it that a Chinese mandarin whose son was saved from drowning by one of Grey’s men initially gifted the blend to the Earl in 1803. One problem: Grey never set foot in china. And bergamot oil was then unknown in China.
What do you need to blend your own tea?
Although the ingredients can be varied and complex, the actual process of making your own tea blends is easy you’ve got the right herbs and spices on hand. Grabbing some quick and easy additives may be a popular option, it’s not the most rewarding. In terms of technology, you’ll need a tea strainer and some glass jars. If you’re planning on making several different blends, labels will help you out.
But what if you don’t have the right herbs growing in your garden? Not to worry, there are plenty of shops – online and off – that sell dried herbs and spices in bulk. Once bought and blended, and stored correctly in a dry and dark place in a well-sealed jar, your mixes can last for up to a year, though the flavours will lose their intensity over time. To rejuvenate an old blend, add a slice of fresh ginger or lemon.
How do you make a good tea blend?
To simplify it, there are three categories to remember when blending your own tea: the base, the star ingredient and the accent. So for example, you could create a floral bend by using chamomile as the base, dried rose petals as the star ingredient, and dried lavender buds as the accent.
Other bases include peppermint, yerba mate, linden flowers, raspberry leaf, lemon balm, rooibos or simple regular black tea. When it comes to star ingredients, you can go for valerian, liquorice, thyme and rosemary. And for the accent, anything punchy will suffice. Think citrus peel, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, fennel seed or rosehip. Depending on which accent you use, the tea will have a warmth, a tanginess, and a spicy note to it.
Which teas should not be mixed?
While you can technically mix any teas together, let’s say black tea and green tea, that doesn’t mean it’ll taste any good. In fact, combining two true teas will likely result in a harsh, overwhelming taste. Mixing teas is a fine art that lives and dies on the steeping time, what specific ingredients you use and to what end. True teas have their own unique flavours and are to be avoided in the blending process.
Here’s what you could mix when it comes to true teas: green tea with dried raspberry bits and lemon peel, black tea with cloves, orange peel and cinnamon for a spicy and earth tea, or green tea with bits of oolong and Pu-erh. throw in some strawberry, elderberry, hibiscus and lemon myrtle leaves and you’re well on your way.
What is the best tea blending technique?
So you’ve got your ingredients, and you’ve got a plan of action. How do you go about actually brewing the blended tea you’ve put together?
For each cup, you should be using 1 teaspoon of your tea blend. Unlike everyday tea, you’ll have to steep it for a lot longer, around 10 minutes to ensure you extract the full flavour and notes of your combination of ingredients. Fill a reusable tea infuser, cotton tea net or disposable tea filter with your blend. Pour water over tea, steep, strain and enjoy!