Why is tea blended?

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.

Teas on spoons

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.

Proper Cuppa Original Tea Blending Kit

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!

Happy brewing!

Tea Tasting: Sniffing and Slurping

What does it mean to enjoy a cup of tea? For one thing there’s the moment of pause, the self-care, the ritual. A hot cup of tea can warm your hands and your insides; a glass of iced tea provides refreshment and hydration. Enjoying a cup of tea is so much more than the scientific perception of the sensory receptors inside your nose and mouth. But from a technical perspective what exactly are those receptors doing when we smell and taste a cup of tea?

We’ve all heard that taste is 90% smell. I could tell you how true this is, but I think it’s far more effective if you can experience it yourself: take 30 seconds and try The Jellybean Experiment (watch me walk you through it here). You won’t regret it!

Jelly Bean Experiment

The Jellybean Experiment

  1. Close your eyes and plug your nose. Don’t let go!
  2. Put a jellybean in your mouth. Chew and describe what you taste. Don’t swallow it.
  3. When you’re ready, release your nostrils, chew the jellybean again, describe what you perceive now. THAT’s what they mean when they say that taste is 90% smell!

Seriously, try it. Jellybeans work great for this demonstration because you are blind to which flavour you’re tasting when you put it in your mouth, but if you don’t have a jellybean try with a piece of fruit or chocolate.

The flood of sensation you get when you unplug your nose is from all of the nasal cavities filling up with aroma compounds. Your nose has the two nostrils out front, but there are also channels leading from the back of your throat into your nasal cavity. We smell our food (or tea) as it moves through the palate, not just when we’re sniffing before we take the first sip. Things we do to break down, warm up and aerate what’s in our mouth help to release more of those flavour molecules so that we can more fully experience what we are consuming.

If you’ve learned about wine tasting you’ve probably seen some entertaining swishing, bubbling, and so on. It’s the same idea – putting air into the wine so that those olfactory sensors in the back of your throat can pick up on them, and then spreading the liquid all over your tongue.

In tea we have the added aspect of heat. Tea is best tasted when it’s hot, because the heat releases more aroma compounds. However, if you’re not careful, you can burn your tongue. Therefore, in official tea tasting methodology we do “The Slurp”.

Slurping tea off a spoon has 3 goals:

  1. cooling the tea so you don’t burn your tongue
  2. adding air so more aroma compounds can be perceived through our olfactory system
  3. spraying the tea across the palate so that all of the tastebuds get activated.

As a Tea Sommelier certified by the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada, I learned to slurp at 125 miles (200km) per hour. It takes some practice! To see what spoon to use and watch a demonstration of me slurping tea check out this video.

Tea + Chocolate: 4 Proper Cuppa Pairings for Easter

Easter is just around the corner and the Easter Bunny is hard at work hiding chocolate treats in every corner. What better way to take care of all that chocolate than with the assistance of a good cuppa tea? This also means chocolate can be a part of your tea ritual at any time of day (wink wink!).

Here are four tasty tea and chocolate pairings to enjoy this Easter:

  1. Garden Party tea with candy-coated milk chocolate eggs

Garden Party + Milk Chocolate Eggs

Capture the essence of spring with pretty eggs and the aroma of April flowers. The jasmine and lavender notes in Garden Party tea evoke a sunny afternoon sharing the backyard with the bees, while the pretty pastels of the chocolate eggs capture the promise of a spring bird’s nest. After all, we eat with our eyes first!

  1. Earl’s Breakfast with dark chocolate

Earls Breakfast + Dark Chocolate

Rich black teas with a sparkle of bergamot are the perfect complement for an elegant dark chocolate, whether in bunny, egg, bark or bar form! Black teas and dark chocolate often have similar notes of dried fruits and spices: alternate sips of tea and nibbles of chocolate to see what flavours each brings out in the other.

  1. Jasmine Cream with white chocolate bunny

Jasmine Cream + White Chocolate

This pairing is creamy, dreamy and overall basically just heavenly. With jasmine and vanilla in the tea and rich notes of cocoa butter and cream in the white chocolate, each component takes a turn amplifying and enhancing the other. If you don’t love white chocolate, give it a try: this combination will bring a new appreciation for the category!

  1. Irish Breakfast with a Cadbury Creme Egg

Irish Breakfast + Cadbury Creme Egg

An indulgent sugar-bomb like Cadbury’s Creme Egg needs a robust tea to balance it out, hence the pairing of Irish Breakfast. With a strong base of malty Assam and a kick of Ceylon, Irish Breakfast is a great partner for this treat. With creaminess and sweetness provided by the Creme Egg, try this Irish Breakfast pairing without milk.

Pick your favourite pairing, or try them all! We’d love to hear what you think, or if you discover a delicious combination of your own. Share with us on Instagram @ProperCuppaTea!

What is a Proper Cuppa?

Tea: it’s the second most-consumed beverage in the world, after water.

There are thousands of different teas out there: black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong, herbal, puerh, purple tea and many many more. Tea is influenced by the terroir in which it is grown, how it is processed and how it’s served.

There are an almost infinite number of ways to prepare a cup of tea: blended, single origin, light, strong, spiced, herbal, decaf, sweet, milky or neat – just to name a few!

Your favourite tea might change from morning to evening, according to your mood, or from one day to the next. That’s one of the great things about tea. There’s a perfect option for every occasion – and you don’t have to limit yourself to just one style or category

The cup of tea that is exactly what you want at that moment: that’s what we call a Proper Cuppa.

As a certified tea sommelier and certifiable tea nerd, I’ve met a lot of inquisitive, open minded tea experts, and a few tea snobs. One of our commitments at Proper Cuppa is to take our tea seriously, not ourselves. We believe that learning more about tea should be fun and inspiring, not intimidating or snobbish. We encourage curiosity and exploration.

Want to learn more about tea origins, history, preparation and more? Sign up for the Introduction to Tea online course.

Assortment of Teas

Ready to dig in and start playing with blending your own cup of tea? Our Original Tea Blending Kit includes everything you need to start blending at home: a selection of teas and botanicals, step-by-step instructions and a variety of blending recipes to get you started. This kit is a great way to start learning more about individual teas, how they interact, and the combinations you might find in some of your current favourites, such as English or Irish Breakfast tea, Earl Grey and more.

What’s your Proper Cuppa (as of today, this moment)? Share how you like to take your tea – or the blends you create: find us on Instagram!