Tea as a Blend Ingredient

Every month I create a new tea blend for Handmade Tea subscribers.  It’s a great way for folks to always have a new tea as well as learn new flavors every month.  Early on, I found that a 3 ingredient blend often works very well.  It’s simple enough to pick up on all the nuances yet complex enough to enjoy over and over, much like a good movie, you notice something new each time you watch it.

The ratio is usually something like 80/10/10.  80% base tea, 10% accent ingredient #1 and 10% accent ingredient #2.  There are no actual recipes with any Handmade Tea blend.  I experiment on a small scale and once I really like something, I use my ‘teaographic’ memory to recreate it on a much larger scale.  Most blends thus far have had a base tea of either green, black, or oolong and the two accent ingredients were herbs, spices, or fruits.  January’s blend was a little different, and it’s something I’d like to talk about a little more.

January’s blend, Gavati, featured a base of Jade Oolong, complimented by a black tea from the Yunnan Province of China, and lemongrass.  This was Handmade Tea’s first blend that used two totally different styles of tea in one blend.  While I’m certainly not claiming this is a new idea, I know plenty of tea companies that do this, I feel like it’s rarely discussed how interesting this can be.  Because our oolong is the base tea, all other blend ingredients must be treated like the oolong when it comes to water temperature and steep time.  So, if I was to brew that lovely peppery black tea up by itself, I’d use boiling water and steep it for at least 4 minutes, but because it’s part of the blend we’re using water that’s cooler in temp. and only steeping it for about 3 minutes.

Because of this, when exploring teas that might make their way into a blend, you must understand the full spectrum of that tea.  Using cooler water and only steeping it for 3 minutes will only bring out a bit of that what tea would normally bring to the table.  This is perfect for what we’re trying to do, which is keep the base tea (Jade Oolong in this case) the main blend ingredient when it comes to both aroma and especially taste.  Granted, this is the case for herbs, spices, and fruits as well.  If you want to use a fruit with black tea, you has best check it can handle the water temp and steeping time.  However, we as tea drinkers often get so used to brewing certain teas in specific ways that we almost forget you can experiment.

I talk a little about this and the harmony behind the blend ingredients in my most recently tasting video, feel free to check it out: