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  • Writer's pictureMarielle

Types of Tea (Part Three)

Updated: May 19

Hey friends, welcome back! So you’ve made it to the last part of the series...CONGRATS! This final installment of “Types of Tea” is about well….not tea. The focus here is going to be on all the things we add to tea; to create blends, add flavor, and more. We’re going to guess the first time you tried tea, it probably wasn’t *just* tea. Maybe your mama brewed some sleepy-time before lights out, or maybe a box of strawberry-hibiscus flavored tea bags called out to you during your weekly grocery run. Maybe you had an eclectic 5th grade teacher who would prepare tea in the classroom at quiet reading time (Mrs.Hill, if you’re reading this, you are the eclectic teacher.) This part of the series will give you the know-how to take a critical look at some of your favorite blends and identify not only what is in them, but what it is you like about them. We will also be uncovering the mystery of “natural flavors” (they’re not as mysterious as you think!)



All About the Blend


Earl Grey

You know The Earl, right? Earl grey, possibly the first tea blend ever created, and one of the most popular to this day. This tea blend starts off with a rich blend of black teas, creating a strong, nutty base. It is then blended with oils extracted from the peels of the bergamot orange, giving it a subtle citrus flavor that compliments and balances the bold blend.





English Breakfast


They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, which tells you how highly regarded this blend is! A blend of black tea, typically Indian and African-grown varieties, gives us a bold tea that pairs well with milk and sugar. The flavors present in this blend, in combination with it’s caffeine content, makes for a perfect tea to start the day with, and can be prepared the same way you make your morning coffee. This is an excellent choice for anyone trying to cut back on coffee or who likes a mild boost of energy to get going.





Masala Chai


This is a spicy one, often prepared with milk like a latte, and sweetened. One of the more complex blends, it begins with a blend of black teas from the various tea-producing regions in India (different regions will produce teas that differ in flavor.) Ingredients can vary based on preference, however almost all chai blends include cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger root, and peppercorns. Other common spices found in chai are nutmeg, anise, and fennel seeds. Those are the basics, but other floral, fruity, or herbal ingredients can be added to create unique flavored chais. This blend is particularly fun to blend, in our opinion, because the base recipe is so versatile that the flavor combinations are endless. We are currently obsessed with chocolate chai.





Potions 101: The Secret Ingredients

Fruits



We add fruit to tea for the same reasons we enjoy eating it: it’s light, refreshing, naturally sweet, and packed with exciting flavor and nutrients. Fruit has the power to completely change a blend, and allows for a ton of creativity.



Citrus


A very popular addition to many kinds of teas, it adds an appealing tang, and has the ability to enhance other flavors in a blend. Citrus fruits, such as lemon, orange, and lime, also have an energizing effect, especially when paired with herbs like mint or ginger. Typically, the peels of the fruit are dried and added to the blend, because they contain the highest concentration of oils (and therefore flavor,) but some blends will also incorporate bits of the dried pulp as well.


Berries


These are packed with flavor and pair well with any variety. They also work well individually, or grouped together. They contain antioxidants and tons of vitamins, making them an easy way to get more nutrients into your day.




Tropicals


Tropical fruits do well in green and white teas, because they have a milder flavor and allow the lightness of fruits such as pineapple, coconut, and mango to shine through. These flavors are particularly delicious in iced teas.



Stone Fruits


Fruits like apricots, plums, and peaches bring delightful sweetness to a hot tea. They are best in simple blends, either the fruit being the only addition to the tea or a complementary floral to balance the flavors. Our tip: blend these fruits with teas based on color. Peach and apricot pair well in lighter teas, such as white tea, while plums and cherries blend seamlessly with the deeper flavors of black teas.



Florals




Flowers are pretty, they smell nice, and many even have health benefits. They add an unexpected twist to tea blends, and are versatile enough to combine with countless other herbs and spices.





Lavender


Lavender is best known for its distinct smell, attractive purple flowers, and its calming properties. Steeped in a tea is one of the best ways to reap these benefits, and a cup in the evening can help you unwind and destress.


Chamomile


Like lavender, a tea with chamomile in it will help you relax and will help you reduce your anxiety. The scent will have you picturing a warm, sunny day frolicking through a field, but its mild sedative properties will have you drifting off to sleep in no time.



Rose


Rose is one that pairs particularly well in stronger teas, balancing the strong, malty flavors with its sweet floral flavor and creating an overall well-rounded blend. The parts of the rose you will typically see used in teas will be the petals and the fruit of the plant, known as the rose hips. Rose hips are a great source of vitamin C.



Dandelion


The root, petals, and leaves are widely used by themselves as an herbal tea (called a tisane,) or in a blend. The plant is used mostly for its ability to aid in good digestion, due to the bitterness causing the body to produce more saliva (trust us, it's a good thing.) Try steeping this with something sweet, like peach, to balance out the bitter.



Calendula


Calendula, when taken consistently, has been used historically to treat a wide variety of skin disorders. This flower is popular for its natural anti-inflammatory properties, and it adds a cheerful, bright aesthetic to any blend with its petals ranging from bold red, sunny yellow, and fiery orange in color.


Herbals



Ginger



Ginger is another one widely used for its digestive-aid and it has a calming effect on an upset stomach. It also adds a spiciness to a tea and is considered by many to be one of the most energizing ingredients to add to a recipe.



Lemongrass/Lemon Balm



Both herbs get their names from the citrusy smell and taste they provide. These can enhance the flavor of a blend naturally, and help bring out the flavor of more subtle herbs and florals in a blend. Both lemongrass and lemon balm have spiritual associations with purity.






Mint


There are many kinds of mint, with varying flavors, but all have a particular one in common; the feeling when you take a deep, cleansing breath of cool, fresh air. Goes well with all kinds of tea, and pairs effortlessly with most fruits and florals. Adding this to your blend will soothe an upset stomach and give you refreshing breath.






The Truth About “Natural” Flavorings


People are making efforts to be much more health-conscious these days, and part of that means being more aware of the ingredients in our food. As a result, words such as sucralose, maltodextrin, and “natural flavorings” are being met with new suspicion, because their names are not transparent enough to tell us what they are; they sound like science experiments, and we are the guinea pigs. While we aren’t here to go into detail on the first two, we can assure you that “natural flavorings” are just that; natural.

Natural flavors are extracted from natural ingredients. Apple flavoring comes from apples, orange flavoring comes from oranges, etc. and most of the “natural flavors” you will see listed on nutrition labels will be a flavor extract, much like those you may use at home (think; baking a cake with vanilla extract.)


Extracts are made using a high proof alcohol, that evaporates out when cooked, baked, or left to sit, which is the case with most tea blends. The flavor ingredient is left to soak in the alcohol, which as a result will isolate the molecules in the ingredient that are responsible for the flavor. These flavors are “extracted” into the alcohol, and this can then be used to flavor teas, pies, ice creams, and other foods. Once the alcohol evaporates out of the food, only the flavor molecules are left. There are more complex methods of isolating individual flavor molecules, that can then be combined to create other flavors, called flavor-compounds. Flavoring that advertises as ‘organic’ are made using organic ingredients, including the base ingredient and the alcohol, and follow the guidelines set by the USDA. The term “natural flavoring” is clearly defined by the FDA, and is regulated accordingly, so you can be confident that these flavorings in your tea are as safe to consume as the other items in your pantry.


The information provided in this post is meant as an introduction to the concepts mentioned above, to give you some basic knowledge to get you started. We are not scientists, so if you’d like some more resources to learn more about natural flavorings, we recommend reading this article on natural vs. artificial flavors (https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/the-flavor-rundown-natural-vs-artificial-flavors/), and the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, which is the code that defines artificial and natural flavors. (https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/cfrsearch.cfm?fr=101.22)


What will you be adding to your tea? Let us know what you think in the comments! Until next time, peace, love and pu'erh!


Thanks for sipping with us!


Marielle @ Moonstone Teas and Botanicals

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