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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tea Blending 101

Last year I completed a one year Tea Sommelier program at our local culinary college. After a pretty intense year end evaluation which included the blind tasting of 10 different teas, I was certified as an accredited Tea Sommelier by the Tea Association of Canada. However, the teas we studied were pure teas, not flavoured, or blended teas.  So anything like Tutti Fruity vanilla tea, jellybean tea, etc… were not on our syllabus.

Yes, there is actually jellybean flavoured tea, but I hope it doesn't have jellybeans floating in it!

We studied the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis plants and Camellia Sinensis Assamica (Chinese and Indian tea bushes).  We also learned about tea production, from leaf plucking, drying, killing the green via moist  (Japan) or dry heat (China), oxidation (if any), to packaging.  So we studied pure teas, orthodox (whole leaf) to ctc (cut, tear, curl - the product in tea bags).  I'm sure I've gotten things mixed up, as its been about 6 months since graduation, and if you don't use it, you lose it! While it was a very intensive one year program, it didn't cover blending.  I guess it would be like a wine sommelier learning how to make sangria.

Every June, there is the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas, and I was tempted to go with some of my peers, but this year it didn't have a tea blending workshop, which was really one of the classes I was interested in.  Whatever I do with my Tea Sommelier certificate, its something I should know something about.  Even if I open a tea shop, and sell pure teas, I would also sell blended teas (as realistically these are the biggest sellers).  While I may purchase my blends from tea distributers I may choose to start blending my own or at least a custom blend.  So it really is something I wish we had been taught.

Last night The Tea Guild (yes folks, there are things like Tea Guilds - I see you shaking your head) had a special guest speaker, who presented a Tea Blending Seminar.  The guest speaker was the owner of a high end Canadian tea company.  Not only is she a sommelier, she also studied Perfumery in Paris.  She let us make our own custom teas, and gave us some hints and tips to blending your own teas, and I thought I would share them with you!   This is a very basic blending tutorial (as it was only a one hour seminar).  Here are a few hints/tips:

  • Document your amounts and ratios.
    • Use a lab scale, as it needs to measure grams.
  • Use quality tea.
    • Don't need an expensive tea, but use one which you enjoy drinking on its own.
    • Assam is a good tea for blending, because its relatively inexpensive, has good flavour, and good colour.
    • You can use a whole leaf, but CTC is also fine either on its own or with the whole leaf.
  • Use quality flavours.
  • Layering is key.  
    • For complex flavours, you must layer ingredients from most dominant flavour to weakest, just like perfumers.
    • Wait 36 - 48 hours in between each added flavour.
    • Mix (or roll in an air tight food grade container) for many minutes.  Otherwise the flavour oils will clump in one area.
  • Start with tea, add dry ingredients, then add flavours, one at a time with the mixing and 36 hr waiting period in between flavours.
Easy Peasy!  Now start!

Here is the basic Assam Bouquet blend we made:
  • 80% or 40 gm Assam Tea

  • 16% or 8 gm dried Hibiscus.

  • 2% or 1 gm dried Rose Petals.

  • 2% or 1 gm Rose flavour.

Put the first three ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and mix well.  You can try drinking it like this.  Its quite lovely without the flavour oil.  If you decide it needs a little more kick.  CAREFULLY add a drop of oil and stir/roll/mix well.  Cover and let rest for 36 to 48 hours.  Mix/roll/stir again for about 4 minutes.
This is what you get:

Oh, BTW you need about 2.5 gm of tea for a nice cup of tea, and since its an assam blend, you need freshly boiled water, and let steep for 3 - 5 minutes.  Now taste it…is it too sweet?  Too floral?  Too tart? Add more tea…Play with it until you are happy.  Try adding vanilla flavour (not liquid extract) or a rooibos, just play around until you get it right.  Enjoy!

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1 comment:

  1. That's really interesting, mixing your own flavored tea! Love to hear from you if you have tried my recipe. Happy baking!


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