Blending tea is as much an art as it is a science. It can be a mystery at times that needs to be solved. But why do we blend tea to begin with? What is the purpose of mixing different teas and flavours together?
In a nutshell, the goal of blending tea is to create a well-balanced cup that brings out the best of different tea leaves and covers up any of their flaws.
When it comes to tea blending, people often think about teas blended with fruits or herbs to create infusions. In fact, since black teas are the most popular category of tea, the majority of tea blends are made using black teas. Large scale tea manufacturers have proprietary blends that they use (or adjust as needed) to deliver the exact same flavour in every single batch. There can be over 20 different kinds of teas in the average black tea bag you buy at the grocery store.
At its core, tea blending can be as simple as combining 2-3 single origin teas to create a blend. For example, Tea A might have a rich colour and soft mouthfeel, but a weak briskness. Tea B has a sharp briskness and strong finish, but too much bite. Combined in the right way, these two teas can create a blend that is robust but not overwhelming, with a well-rounded finish and beautiful colour. This is perfect for a breakfast blend, for example. Add spices or other botanicals and your blend can develop all kinds of additional flavour interactions.
The key to tea blending is balance.
Tea blending is not about taking the finest teas you can find and mixing them together to create a “super tea”. It is about finding flavours that go together to create a balanced and enjoyable end product. Layers of flavours that come through in a harmonious way. Tea blending should be imaginative and adventurous but restrained at the same time.
An important aspect of tea blending is understanding individual flavours. You can taste a vanilla bean or an orange slice on its own and think that it would be great in a tea that you are blending, and you might be right. But when you actually mix all these flavours, you notice different notes as they combine together. You also notice how some ingredients can overpower others if they are not added in the right quantities.
Let’s talk bling
When blending tea, we start with a base to build upon. Base teas usually refer to the origin of the tea in question. Teas from different regions are known for the different characteristics that they bring to the blend. For instance, in our original Tea Blending Kit, we have Assam, Keemun and Ceylon teas. They each come from a different region and have nuances that set the foundation for the blend.
Once the base tea is determined, we start building up layers of flavour from different origin teas, or add spices, fruits, flowers or herbs… the bling!
Spices – like cinnamon, cardamom, anise – contain natural oils. When steeped in hot water these oils are released into the tea, adding flavour (and more importantly – rich aroma) to the blend. They can be tricky to work with, as factors such as freshness and processing can have a major impact on the flavour of the end product. Spices can add depth to your blend in the right quantities, but they can also overpower other flavours if not blended right.
Fruits can also be deceiving. What you think of as the flavour of a certain fruit might taste different when dried and steeped in hot water. Think about how different a fresh plum is compared to a dried prune, and then imagine the resulting brew from steeping each of these in hot water. Other fruits like berries can actually add tartness to a blend even though they taste sweet when you eat them fresh.
Florals range widely in how they affect a blend. Some flowers, such as blue cornflower, contribute more visual appeal than flavour notes. Others, like rose or lavender, can overshadow the base tea. Therefore they need to be blended in the right quantities and with the right teas.
Finally, herbs such as lemongrass and mint add refreshing notes to a tea blend and can provide a great “oomph” or “finishing touch” to the end product. As with florals, be careful to understand the component you are working with, as each herb can bring a different level of intensity and require careful balance.
Are you excited to blend your own tea?
Tea blending is fun! It is creative. It helps you develop your palate and understand how different components interact in a blend. If you have ever tasted a tea and thought “this is delicious” or “this would be even better with more of X flavour in it”, then you are ready to blend your own teas!
Our original Tea Blending Kit allows you to create your own tea blends at home. You can get started easily with the recipes we provide and once you feel more comfortable and adventurous, you can start trying different combinations of your own.
Our teas are selected by Sarah, a Tea Sommelier certified with the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada, who has nearly 10 years of experience blending teas. The original Tea Blending Kit is a product of her knowledge and experience, but more importantly her love of tea!