Tea blending is an essential aspect and part of the tea industry. It is what makes tea commercial and appealing to a larger number of consumers. Tea blending is also considered to be art, with a principle of creating the perfect taste, appearance and aroma for each and every buyer and tea consumer.
The principle itself is based on the inspection of the possible and desired taste and aroma, the actual tea combination and the consistent production of the same tea blend for years to come. However, without the proper tea selection, weighing and arrangement, tea blending principles don’t mean a lot. To create a specific tea blend or combination takes a lot of hard work, knowledge, and experience in all sorts of tea. One needs to understand the variety of tea, the grade, origin, quality, processing of the tea, and its possible interaction with other teams and herbs.
As tea blending is extremely interesting, and also possible for you to do at home, we are going to take a look at this topic in detail. We’re going to explore the blending techniques, how you can blend and scent tea at home as well as what tea blending process consists of. Hopefully, we’ll inspire you to try some new tea blends or to start blending tea at home. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
Tea Blending: 5 Things You Need to Know
Why We Blend Tea?
Tea blending is fun, interesting and yields some of the most unique flavors and aromas, but that is not the main reason why we do it. The main three reasons tea blending occurs and important for the tea industry are the following;
- Tea blending is a way to ensure consistency in the quality of a tea batch on a grand scale. Because a blend needs to be the same every time, the tea makers have to ensure each tea variety remains the same quality, over and over again. That is the reason you always get high-quality, consistent and always amazing blends, especially when it comes to commercial teas.
- Tea blending is a way to introduce the health aspect to the art of drinking and blending tea. Tea makers do not always rely on blending of two tea varieties; the blends include herbs and spices which provide numerous health benefits. That is why blends are especially famous and appreciated in China and India, where holistic health has a rich history. In India especially, Ayurvedic medicine has been based on blending herbs, spices, and tea for hundreds of years now.
- Tea blending is, of course, a way to commercialize tea. Because blending creates incredible flavors and aroma, it is a popular way to bring exceptional tea to every household. Tea sellers and brokers rely heavily on tea blending, as it ensures their product quality and demand for the blends always stay consistent for their customers. Tea blending is also an excellent way to get non-tea consumers to become interested in tea, which results in new customers.
Tea Blending Techniques
Blending is not a modern innovation; mixing tea with herbs and spices has been around for hundreds of years. Nonetheless, tea blending has become increasingly popular in the recent decade, as the modern tea consumer always searches for new and interesting tea blends, with unique taste and aroma. That is why tea blending techniques evolve constantly; there are numerous, innovating ways tea sellers blend and combine tea.
However, to learn about tea blending means knowing what the basic tea blending techniques are. Three main blending techniques include;
- Blending Herbs
The most common blending technique includes the blending of different types of herbs. The usually blended herbs are chamomile, peppermint, mint, rose, ginger, hibiscus, etc. All of the herbs (and spices) are mixed in different amounts with different tea varieties in order to create new and unique flavors. These herbal blends can also include ingredients like different plant roots, spices like cinnamon or turmeric, dried fruits, and of course, numerous varieties of herbs.
They can be blended for the purpose of unique flavors and aroma, or for the medicinal purpose. Sometimes, the tea itself is left out, so the blend only contains herbs and spices. The reason for that might lie in wanting to create decaffeinated tea, and of course, to create a purely herbal tea.
When it comes to the blending process itself, it can be done by hand, as smaller, local tea sellers do, or it can be e done in mixing drums for commercial purposes. To ensure consistency of the blend, the weight and the percentage of each ingredient in the blend is carefully observed and recorded. This way each new batch of the bland will have the same quality and identical taste, which is important if you want to keep the customers loyal to your brand.
Now, this blending technique is purely aesthetic or carries a health element. Inclusions are ingredients that add to a blend an aesthetic value as well as healthy, beneficial properties. These, however, do not alter or affect that flavor and the aroma of the blend; they just affect the chemical composition and the health properties of the blend. With inclusions, taste and aroma are actually secondary factors.
Nevertheless, if inclusions are not handled properly, or added to a blend in the right amounts, they can surely make or break your tea. Even though they do not add to the flavor and the aroma at all, they still play an important role in the blend. Tea makers are required to have exceptional blending skills to be actually allowed to be innovative with inclusions. Inclusions may not add to the flavor profile, but they surely change the color of your tea, as well as its visual appeal to you.
For example, if a tea maker wants to make a strawberry tea blend, they cannot add strawberry flavoring; they have to use the actual dried fruit to create a beautiful ruby red blend, and later on, brew.
Even though the dried fruit doesn’t add to the flavor and aroma, the color of the blend and the tea will trick the consumer into thinking they’re actually drinking a strawberry tea.
Tea scenting is a rather popular way of tea adopting distinct aromas from the environment where it is grown, processed and dried. Usually, tea adopts the aroma from the surrounding where they grow (like Japanese tea which grows near the sea and adapts an oceanic and vegetal flavor that becomes very distinct during the infusion); however, blending an even better way of controlling the aroma and the scent of the tea.
Scenting makes It easier to control the aroma and to add the scents based on the aroma you wish to impart. The common scents tea makers rely on are bergamot oil (usually for black tea), and jasmine ‘for white and green tea). Aromatic ingredients like rose petals or lavender flowers can also be added during the drying and blending stage, and are usually left in the final blend as well.
Scenting via jasmine flower is an ancient method, dating back to ancient China. Tea makers would usually use dried jasmine flowers to ensure the best-quality aroma, but sometimes even fresh flowers are used.
On the other hand, using essential oils, like bergamot, is a newer method of scenting. The oil is sprayed onto batches of leaves during the blending stage to ensure even coating and distribution. Types of essential oil used for scenting include;
- Natural essential oils (manufactured from a natural ingredient),
- Nature-identical essential oils (the same molecular make-up as natural essential oils, but made in the laboratory),
- Synthetic (made in a laboratory without matching the molecular make-up of natural essential oils).
Blending Tea at Home
Sure, it is rather easy and convenient to buy tea blends at a local store or tea shop. However, as of recently, people have started blending tea at home. Many prefer to create their own blends because it is easy to adjust the specific taste preferences, and sometimes it can be actually cheaper to create your own blend than to buy such teas. People usually choose to blend tea with herbs and spices they already have at home, which makes this process even easier. Here’s how you can do it;
- Buying the ingredients – make sure to buy the herbs and spices in herbs/spice shops or in the herbs/spice aisle in the supermarket. If you’re looking for more unique and specific ingredients, you can surely find them in the health food stores or on the Internet. When ordering the ingredient on the Internet, make sure that the supplier is an established, reliable supplier, who provides natural and organic ingredients.
- Using the herbs/spices you already have – if you’re new to tea blending, maybe you should start with the herbs/spices you already have at home. Ingredients like peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, chili or cacao are probably the ones you’re already using in cooking. By using these ingredients, you’ll get to practice creating blends, see what flavors and aromas you like, and of course, learn how to blend tea.
- Using the ingredients from your garden (or garden center) – the great thing about tea blending is that you can find the ingredients in your own garden, or purchase them at the local garden center. You can easily pluck herbs like rose petals or mint and create the so-called wet blends, using other herbs, tea, spices, roots or seeds. If you want to create a dry blend, you will simply have to let the ingredients dry by spreading them on a large tray and expose them to a warm, well-ventilated space.
- Scenting at home – if you want to scent your tea while creating a blend you can use apples, citrus peel or oil, vanilla beans, chili, star anise, turmeric, flower petals, etc. The only thing to do is to mix your tea with the scenting ingredients and leave them in an airtight container for 48 hours. If you’re using the fresh scenting ingredients, make sure to remove them after you’ve reached the desired scent and aroma, as they will decay in the container. You can place the scenting ingredient is small muslin or paper sacs or pouches, for easier removal.
Tea Blending Process (Step by Step)
Before you start blending, make sure to decide whether you’re blending for health purposes or you simply want to try out new flavors and aromas. Also make sure to decide what kind of flavor and aroma you want to achieve, so that you can use the right tea and complementary blending or scenting ingredients.
If you want to achieve light, floral flavors, you can use, for example, chamomile, jasmine or lavender petals, white tea, etc. If you want to achieve a sweet taste, you can turn to floral teas, spices like cinnamon or cardamom, or even coconut flakes and cocoa. Once you made all these important decisions, it is time to blend and have fun. Here’s how to do it, step by step;
- You’ll be creating smaller batches of the blend. So, the first step is to add approximately 5 teaspoons of your base tea into a pouch or tin. Then you will add your main ingredient, which can be a herb or another tea.
- Once you have chosen your blending herb, make sure to add 1 (heaped) teaspoon to the tea base. This herb will be the most prominent aspect of your blend, as it will decide the flavor of the aroma of the blend.
- At this point, you can add more blending herbs; make sure to add 1 heaped teaspoon each. If you don’t want to disrupt the flavor, but only enhance it or make it more complex, consider fruity or floral complementary flavorings. We don’t recommend you use more than three blending herbs together.
- This step is reserved for the aforementioned inclusions; these won’t change the flavor profile of your blend, but simply add to its color and health benefits.
- At this point you might want to consider scenting; this is an optional step, but if you were interested in scenting, this would be the time to do it. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, for example.
- And, that is it. All you can do now is leave the tea in an airtight container, in a cool, dry and warm place for at least 48 hours. You can let the tea blend for longer if you want a complete blending process to occur (this would create a stronger and more prominent flavor profile).
3 Tea Blending Inspirational ideas
In case we inspired you to start blending tea at home, here are some of our recommendations;
- Spiced Orange Chai blend – you will need 5 teaspoons of your favorite black tea, and 1 teaspoon each; cloves, cardamom pods, chopped dried ginger and chopped, dried orange or lemon peel. If you don’t want to use black tea, or you want to create a decaffeinated version, just simply use Rooibos tea or yerba mate. To the blend, you can also add cocoa or cinnamon sticks to create a chai that is perfect for the holiday season.
- Summer Morning Blend – you will need 5 teaspoons of your favorite green tea, 2 teaspoons of chopped/sliced lemongrass, and 1 teaspoon each; fresh lemon thyme leaves, rose petals, hibiscus flower petals. If you don’t want to use green tea or you want to create a decaffeinated version of the drink. You can you Rooibos, chamomile or peppermint. To the blend, you can also add lavender flowers or a little bit of cinnamon.
- Immune Tea blend – you will need 5 teaspoons of your favorite green tea, 1 teaspoon of dried chamomile, rose petals and elderflowers, as well as some elderberries (dried or fresh). You can also add goji berries to the blend, dried mint leaves, chopped/sliced lemongrass or dried hibiscus flowers.
The whole idea surrounding tea blending is to create a distinct flavor and aroma, a perfect combination of tea, herbs, and spices that will a distinct and unique flavor profile and character. Whether store-bought or homemade, tea blends offer exceptional tea-drinking experience and a festival for all of your senses.
If you decide to blend tea at home, remember to have fun and stay openminded to all sorts of new flavors and aromas you will surely discover in the process. Tea blending is art, a rule-free game and it very important to be fearless and just go for it. Not to mention that these blends are not only good for hot brews, but also for cold ones. So, use your favorite blend brew for a cozy night in, or as a refreshing conversation-starter for your friends.