Monday, 1 December 2008

Blending Tea

I have been having a lot of fun over the last few weeks trying to develop some tea blends of my own. These are mostly herbal blends because that’s what I feel most confident with – black and green teas seem so complex, and indeed it seems a shame to tamper with their own beautiful flavours sometimes – although I have had a go at a couple of black tea blends as well. I’m hoping that I may be able to start up a little tea business on Etsy sometime in the next few months but am trying to come up with a solid range of blends first before I get in over my head.

I don’t have access to the artificial or natural flavouring essences used to make regular flavoured teas so I’m confining myself to using the stuff I can buy at the herbal and grocery stores near me – although for the Christmas tea I have been trying to blend I did buy an almond flavoured black tea to use as the base (from The Tea Centre). This means dried fruits, spices, nuts, cocoa, vanilla and of course herbs like chamomile, rose petals and hips, spearmint…

It’s a funny process, trying to blend tea. Sometimes I seem to hit the nail on the head straight off - at least to my taste, and my friends who have tried the teas seem to like them well enough also (luckily!) – and sometimes things don’t work out like I was anticipating at all. Dried apple, for example, doesn’t add as much apple-y flavour as I’d thought it would, whereas dried apricots seem to work really well if you steep them for a decent period of time. Cardamom pods (crushed) have an extremely strong, almost overpowering scent – I really thought I’d gone overboard with the amount I put in - but when the tea is brewed the resulting flavour is quite subtle. I am curious to experiment with some shredded dried coconut…

The ideas come from a variety of places too. Some of them I just come up with on my own, but I’m also inspired – I do confess it – by blends that I read about in my beloved (but o-so-trashy) Tea Shop Mysteries… I own a couple of these and borrow the others from the library semi-regularly, not to re-read in their entirety but just to skip to the bits where they talk about the teas at the Indigo tea shop, and the catering that they do… and the recipes and tea party ideas at the end. It’s my little bit of escapist tea fantasy… Embarrassing but true.

I do wonder just how infinite (or otherwise) the number of possible blends is, though – at least for ones that will also be tasty. I was congratulating myself on being fairly original in coming up with the idea to try out a mix of fennel and lemongrass – then discovered at the cafĂ© of the Embassy theatre in Wellington that there was a blend there that contained those two things (along with juniper berries, I think – wish I could remember the name of the brand of tea, I should’ve written it down…)! It seemed like an amazing coincidence. It also tasted pretty good – I think I will still try my own version.

Once the conference I’m going to is over and done with at the end of the week I am definitely looking forward to trying out more of my own tea blends, and will be taking careful note of the results for future reference… stay tuned!

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