Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tea Blends

I'm a tea purist. Please give me single estate non-blended teas. I can't remember what it was that got me into tea but there is a rumor in my mind, kinda like the rumor of Bodhidharma's eyelids, that it was blended teas that got me into enjoying tea. Now that I have learned a few things my preference has changed and is for single origin, single estate teas.

Genmai Cha

Genmaicha is a tea rich in history. Historically it is a Japanese tea made of bancha tea, which is the second flush (or picking) rather than the first flush that becomes sencha. This is because bancha is cheaper than the sencha tea. In comparison bancha is larger and broken compared to sencha which is more delicate with naturally sweet notes. Tea has until recently been a luxury item. So, to make the tea last longer people would add rice to the tea. During the roasting processes some of the brown rice kernels would pop. Thus, genmaicha is at times referred to as "pop corn tea". Now that tea is more widely available to the people genmaicha has developed in other base teas rather than bancha. In short, blend it to extend it.

Fruit Blended Teas

To me fruit blended tea is synonymous with the tea shop Teavana. The majority of teas they sell are fruit blended teas. Fruit blended teas are great for iced tea, which is totally American. However, when I drink tea I want to taste tea, not fruit and tea. However, if you are looking for a good summer iced tea then Teavana is where it's at.

Tea Blends
Lipton, PG Tips, Stash Tea, and many others are known in the tea community for blending their teas, and for a good reason. If you go buy, say a Lipton bagged tea and you like it and want it next year then you would want it to taste the same as last year. However, each year a single tea estate, even a single tea tree would produce a different taste based on the weather, the soil, and how the tea tree was cared for. Thus such tea brands have professional tea blenders to blend different teas from different estates and even different countries and continents to get the most similar tasting tea year to year.

1 comment:

  1. I too have grown in the direction of single-estate (and single-harvest) teas. However, I am not opposed to blends in principle.

    I think there's an important distinction to be made in the world of blends, between more "generic" blends and those that have had more care put into them. Some companies just slap together a bunch of blends based on the same (usually inexpensive, blended) base tea, typically a green or black, often scenting them with various essential oils or extracts, sometimes even artificial flavorings.

    At the other end of the spectrum, single-origin teas are carefully chosen to mesh well with other ingredients, often single-origin themselves: whole herbs or spices, pieces of dried fruit, flowers. Then there are the traditionally-scented teas.