Origin blends: back to basics

P & T Teapology comprises our musings on tea’s journey from its very beginnings in China onto the far corners of the world. Along this journey comes the inevitable exchange of ideas, as the nuances from one culture blend with the next. Consider a timeless tea blend like earl grey. Arguably the most famous of aromatized teas, legend has it that earl grey was originally crafted as a gift to the second Earl of Grey and has borne his name ever since. At its core, “earl grey” denotes a pairing of black tea and bergamot. Yet by introducing or accentuating different flavor notes, new harmonies arise. Such is the art and science of blending tea. Experimentation may produce countless possibilities, but by honoring timeless blending techniques, we’ve stayed true to the beauty of the blend.

Necessary to understanding the art of blending is appreciating the triptych of skills used to create it. Given that manufacturing processes assert greater influence on the type of tea, this is where Camellia sinensis derives much of her fragrance and flavor. The first of the 3 skills is flavoring. Flavoring is a practice used in tea manufacturing to introduce or increase certain flavor notes in the tea. To do so, essential oils are gradually added to the leaves post harvest. Herein lies the science of blending: the tea leaves’ hygroscopic or water-loving qualities make them especially keen to absorb moisture. Thus, using oil as a flavor additive allows the desired flavors to seep into moisture-hungry tea leaves. Our White Earl exhibits the best of the flavoring process. For this lighter version of the iconic earl grey blend, we’ve given our floral, fruity Chinese white a generous showering of luscious, all-natural bergamot aroma.

The next element of the blending trifecta is scenting, a technique which imbibes the tea with various aromatic compounds. Contrary to flavoring, scenting relies on the presence of the desired ingredient. With that stipulation comes the importance of sourcing high quality, organic ingredients as they determine the brew’s quality. Our fragrant oolong blend, Chang-e Forever, exemplifies the age-old art of scenting teas. Its flavors melt with citrus and apricot notes of osmanthus petals, creating a floral bouquet laced with sweetness. This blend is a tribute to Chang-e, the Chinese moon goddess rumored to live among sweet blossoms such as the ones used here.

The final member of this manufacturing trio is the act of blending. Blending as a technique infers mixing teas with other teas, or with other ingredients. The expertise in creating the right medley is due in part to understanding the synergies between each element of the blend. It’s important to note infusion temperatures as well as flavor profiles, so as not to compromise the tea’s quality. Sacred Emily is our first-ever in-house blend, and our ideal expression of a British classic. Plucked at the height of their bloom, the rose petals in this blend linger on the palate and mingle with precious jasmine green tea, as well as tips from the best second flush Nepal tea. These rare components transform this joyful mélange into a true piece of art.

As is the case with any art form, even slight changes during the creation process create drastically different, yet equally enchanting results. That’s why our expression of blends draws from timeless techniques, all in hopes of elevating them. Which is your favorite?

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