The word ‘Tea’ is one of the most beautiful words for all the tea lovers in this world. It instantly does its magic by making you long for it. Of course, that is the reason tea is considered one of the most loved drinks all over the world. It is a well-known fact that tea is the most popular drink on earth after water. People love to have it in their own ways be it black tea or green tea, with milk or without milk, hot or cold, pure or blended. Each one of these teas is a unique experience in itself.
Whatever type of tea it is, the source of all these teas is the same. Camellia Sinensis is the plant which produces the leaves and buds that are known as tea.
This plant grows in tropical and subtropical climates and comes in the category of the flowering evergreen shrub. The tea plant produces small white flowers, the leaves, and buds which can be harvested three years after the shrub is planted. This plant can live for more than a hundred year. One interesting fact about the tea plant is that it grows into a tree if it is not disturbed. Hence, cultivated plants are time to time pruned to lower height for the purpose of easy plucking. Leaves and bushes are harvested from smaller and younger bushes for easiness. After harvesting, the leaves are dried and rolled for the distribution.
There are four main traditional tea-growing countries namely China, Japan, India, and Sri Lanka. But lately, many new tea-producing countries have emerged like Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Kenya. The origin is one of the main criteria which decides the characteristic flavor of the tea because of the difference in altitude, soil type, plant type, the age of the plant, climate, etc. Each origin can produce any of the five main types of tea apart from others. For example, green tea in Japan, white tea in China, black tea in Sri Lanka. Whichever type of tea you choose for you, it is important to understand its origin, process of production to confirm its quality and standard.
If we look at the history of the tea, it originated in Southwest China as a medicinal drink. Later, it got its popularity as a recreational drink at the time of Chinese Tang dynasty, and gradually tea drinking got famous in other East Asian countries. During the 16th century, Portuguese priests and merchants introduced it to Europe. Later in the 17th century, drinking tea became fashionable among the Britons, who thought to initiate its production at a large scale and decided to commercialize the plant in India so as to bypass the Chinese monopoly. The tea culture was brought in India by the British in 1836 and in Sri Lanka in 1867.
What exactly is in tea?
Looking at the chemical composition of the tea, there are three primary components of the tea liquor (brewed tea) which are:
- Essential Oils — these all natiural oils are responsible for tea's delicious aromas and flavors
- Polyphenols — they provide the "briskness" or astringency in the taste and are the key components for most of the health benefits.
- Caffeine — it provides tea's natural energy boost property.
What are the health benefits of drinking tea?
Drinking tea provides many health benefits depending upon various factors like type of tea, quantity, the method of preparation, etc. Here are few health benefits of consuming tea:
- Helps in weight loss by increasing the body metabolism
- Prevents diabetes by regulating the glucose levels
- Protects from the heart disease by working on the lining of blood vessels
- Reduces the risk of Esophageal Cancer by killing the cancer cells
- Reduces the bad cholesterol in the body
- Delays the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
- Destroys the bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections, dental caries, and other dental conditions
- Reduces the risk of high blood pressure
- Fights depression by providing a relaxing and tranquilizing effect
- Helps as Anti-viral and Anti-bacterial agent for our body and thus fighting many diseases
- Provides skincare by reducing wrinkles and the signs of aging
Classification of teas
Tea is classified in several ways. The most common classification of tea is according to its region of origin. For example, China, Ceylon, Japanese, and African tea, or by smaller district, as in Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiri from India, Uva and Dimbula from Sri Lanka, Keemun from Chi-men in China’s Anhwei Province, and Enshu from Japan.
Black teas is also classified according to the size of the processed leaf. The traditional ways of operations produce the larger leafy grades and the smaller broken grades.
The leafy grades are:
- Flowery Pekoe (FP)
- Orange Pekoe (OP)
- Pekoe (P)
- Pekoe Souchong (PS)
- Souchong (S)
The broken grades are:
- Broken Orange Pekoe (BOP)
- Broken Pekoe (BP)
- BOP fanning
The leafy grades are the result of mainly the tougher and more mature leaves whereas broken grades generally have substantial contributions from the more tender shoots.
The most important classification is according to the manufacturing process, resulting in the three categories of:
- Fermented (black)
- Unfermented (green and white)
- Semi-fermented (oolong or pouchong)
100% Natural Tea (Unblended) and Blended Tea
The most fascinating fact about teas is that each kind is different from each other, and every minute detail of the cultivation and production process affects how it will ultimately taste in your cup. The origin and terrain deeply affect its flavor and character.
Before talking about in detail about the natural tea (unblended) and blended tea, let’s understand in brief about what they are.
Unblended or natural tea is a pure tea of the same quality classification from a single estate, and not blended with any other teas. Blended teas, as the name suggests, is a tea produced by blending different types of teas together.
Both of these types of teas offer their significant characteristics, advantage, and disadvantage. Let’s discuss in detail about these two important categories of teas.
Unblended / Natural / Pure / Single Origin Tea
A wide range of ethnic teas is produced by growing the tea in different regions of the same country or maybe different countries across the world. This is the reason why we should understand about the unblended or single origin tea. Single origin or we can say pure teas are the specific characteristic of a particular region and are sold as pure leaves, completely unblended. They are special because they are grown in a unique soil, climate, and geography. All these factors bring the distinct flavor in these teas.
The exclusivity of such single origin teas makes them expensive and premium teas. It can be a big challenge for pure teas to have their distinct flavor profile and hence it becomes costly. These teas are grown organically in a particular manner to keep the flavor intact. For example, Ceylon gold white tea. This tea is from an estate in Hatton in Nuwera Eliya in Sri Lanka. It is western high grown and exhibits a golden color liquor. This pure tea boasts a light, fine, tart flavor which is totally distinct to it. It is unadulterated and reflects the true character of the region it belongs.
If we talk about the unblended tea, they are usually of higher quality than blended teas. A blended tea can have lower quality teas mixed in with the higher quality tea, and you wouldn’t be able to identify it.
There are two types of unblended tea: single-estate and single tea type.
Single Estate teas
These are the unblended teas which are sold under the name of the tea estate where they are grown, harvested, processed, and packaged. For example, our Colonial Mornings tea is an estate tea with long, wiry leaves from the Dimbulla region in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon). It is medium to full body with slightly fruity, mineral notes and an appearance that is reddish-amber in color.
With a single-estate tea, you certainly know what you’re getting. These single estate teas generally have a nuanced flavor and subtle character which is totally lacking in the blended teas. Though, they will vary, depending on the growing conditions and the time of harvest. For example, Darjeeling tea harvested in Autumn has a distinct stronger flavor and are considered of lower quality than the first (Spring) and second (Summer) flushes. Most Ceylon teas, however, maintain similar quality characteristics all yea round due to Sri Lanka's consistent climate.
Single-Tea Type Teas
It is worth noticing that all unblended teas need not be from the same grower/estate. They can just be the same kind of tea sourced from different places. For example, Irish Breakfast tea tends to be pure Assam and is labeled ‘blend’ sometimes because the tea doesn’t come from the same estate.
So, now you know all about the pure, unblended teas. Going further, let’s discuss the blended tea.
In simple words, blended tea is a final product which is produced by the blending of different tea together. This blending is mainly done with the black tea but can also occur with the other teas like Pu-erh where leaves are blended from different regions before being compressed.
Teas are blended for several reasons — some mass-market manufacturers blend higher grade tea leaves with lower grade ones to reduce costs while maintaining some quality in taste. This allows these manufacturers to mitigate against variations in tea leaf quality and differences from season to season to be smoothed out. Alternatively, some manufacturers blend teas of different origins with the aim of creating a well-balanced flavor using the characteristics of different origins. Some tea comapnies do this develop their special ‘signature blends’ – ones that no other company can offer.
One most important aspect of blending is that every blend must taste the same as the previous one, so a consumer will not detect a difference in flavor from one purchase to the next.
Tea can be flavored with perfumes, flavoring agent, or essential oils. Although blending a tea can add an additional aspect to the tea in terms of taste, color, and aroma, the blending process may also sometimes be used to hide and obscure the sub-standard quality of the tea.
Types of blended tea
There are many types of blended tea depending upon with which additive it is blended. Here are some common types of blended teas:
Afternoon teas: These blends (of black teas) are generally lighter than breakfast blends. Both, breakfast as well as afternoon blends are very popular in the British Isles, e.g. Prince of Wales tea blend
Russian Caravan tea: A very popular blend, named Russian Caravan goes back to the old days when tea was hauled to Russia from China on camel-back. It generally contains a bit of smoky Lapsang souchong, though the base is typically Keemun or Dian Hong
Flavored and scented teas: Although many teas are still flavored directly with flowers, herbs, spices, or even smoke, teas with more specialized flavors are produced through the addition of flavoring agents or perfumes. This is particularly true for tea blends with pronounced fruit or floral aromas, which cannot be obtained with the original ingredients
Flowers: A variety of flowers are used to flavor teas. The most popular of these teas include the flowers of the following:
Herbs: Few herbs are commonly used to blend teas:
- Pandan (Screwpine)
Other flavoring agents: These are added to get distinct blends of teas:
- Citrus peel
- Spices such as ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cassia, black pepper, clove, anise, fennel, Indian bay leaf and sometimes vanilla, nutmeg and mace
- Roasted grain
Flavors in blended tea combine to make an entirely new and different taste experience. Blending is done to get a taste you wouldn’t have otherwise. Your blend will incorporate the characteristics and qualities of each tea in accordance with its proportion in your mix.
Pure or blended tea?
When you choose to drink an unblended tea, it can reflect the purity of a particular garden, a harvest, the terrain, a tea grower’s expertise, and a teamaker’s craft. When a tea produces a wonderfully complex flavor profile, it would be insane to blend it away! Definitely, a tea maker would never use his best teas for the purpose of blending.
Moreover, traceability of the tea is much easier when it is unblended, from a single garden and a specific harvest or season. It opens the doors to know everything about the origin of your tea when it was grown and processed.
On the other side, let’s look at this important aspect of tea. Tea is a natural product and naturally, each harvest produces something different from the last. This implies that season to season and year to year, a small or a big variation can take place even within the one tea garden or estate. Hence requires the tea blending.
Tea blending holds a certain mystique and is something of an art form - professional tasters manage to achieve certain flavor profiles with an ever-changing natural product, using teas from different regions and countries, and from seasons and years present and past.
Hence, it is up to you to decide which type of tea you would like to enjoy. Here at teakruthi, you can enjoy a wide range of pure as well as blended Ceylon teas. It will be great if you share your experience with us in the comments below.
Have a great cup of tea!