The Art of Tea Blending: Techniques and Principles for Consistent and Unique Flavors

Tea blending is a process of combining different types of tea to create a unique final product while maintaining consistency in taste. It is commonly associated with black tea production, especially for tea companies that require a specific taste for their signature tea, such as English Breakfast. In countries like Sri Lanka and India, Tea Tasters are responsible for creating and maintaining unique black tea blends or “Standards” for these tea companies.

To ensure that each batch of tea tastes the same, tea blending is crucial for major tea companies. This consistency in taste ensures that customers will not detect a difference in flavor when purchasing the same tea again.

Tea is a delicate plant that easily absorbs aromas, which can work against it during manufacturing and transportation. However, tea blenders can use this fragility to their advantage by stabilizing the tea and creating beautiful blends. The key to tea blending is achieving a consistent taste while still reflecting the unique nuances of each component tea.

Tea Flavouring Techniques

Tea can be flavored in a variety of ways to create a blend with a unique taste. In this guide, we will explore the various techniques of blending teas:

  • Inclusions involve adding fruits, blossoms, herbs or other additives directly to tea leaves to enhance the visual and sensory effect of the blend.
  • Extracts are flavoring agents obtained by extracting essential oils from various parts of plants such as leaves, fruits, roots, and blossoms. Extracts contain the distinctive scent and flavor of the plant they are derived from.
  • Natural Identical (NIs) are flavoring agents produced through chemical synthesis by a chemist. NIs are generally more stable than extracts and are typically less expensive. Many flavored products are flavored with NIs.
  • Artificial Flavors are created by altering the chemical structure of naturally occurring molecules to create more intense compounds.
  • Scenting involves deriving flavor simply from physical proximity to strong flavors. For example, jasmine tea is scented with jasmine blossoms that are removed after the scent is absorbed into the tea leaves. Lapsang Souchong is scented by being exposed to the smoke of burning pine root.

Often, these methods are combined to create flavored tea blends. While inclusions can alter the flavor of the tea, they are usually not potent enough to deliver the desired taste. Therefore, most “flavored” teas are further combined with NIs. The amount of flavoring used varies depending on the flavor and desired strength, but usually ranges between 0.5% – 5% of the weight of the tea being flavored.

To apply the flavoring agent, it is poured or sprayed over the dry leaves and mixed to ensure an even distribution. Larger companies may use large rotating drums filled with hundreds of kilograms of tea for this process. Most teas can absorb the flavoring in under 30 minutes, although some flavors require longer.

Tea Blending Principles: Objectives, Balance, and Emotions

When it comes to creating a beautiful tea blend, there are three key ingredients to keep in mind: objectives, balance, and emotions.

Objectives refer to the purpose of the blend. Are we creating a wellness drink with health benefits in mind, or are we aiming for a gourmet, artisanal blend that tastes amazing in a cup?

From a technical perspective, tea blending is all about balance. This includes using aesthetically pleasing dried leaves, creating a balanced aroma, ensuring a good mouthfeel and taste, and achieving a satisfying finish.

But perhaps the most crucial factor in tea blending is the emotional component. By combining tea leaves and herbs, we can invoke feelings and tell stories through the blends we create. It’s an exercise in empathy that allows us to connect with others on a deeper level through the simple act of sharing a cup of tea.

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