What makes a tea desirable? It’s a tricky question and a proper answer could probably fill a volume or three. But when it comes to flavor profiles there are essentially two different mindsets.
Many tea drinkers tend to stick with one or a few teas, drinking them on a regular basis and demanding a flavor profile that never varies. Tea companies achieve this consistency and smooth out any possible variations in taste by blending a variety of different teas – sometimes as many as several dozen into one blend. Tea tasters with highly refined palates are always standing by to make sure that each batch of tea that leaves the factory floor is essentially indistinguishable from the one the preceded it.
In some cases the flavor of a tea (or a “classic” flavor of a world-renowned cola, now that you mention it) becomes so beloved that the company only dares to tamper with it at great risk. For example, some years back one fan of Twinings’ popular Earl Grey blend became so aggravated by what he perceived as changes to the formula that he undertook a campaign to right this alleged wrong.
On the other hand are tea lovers who seek a distinctive experience with every type of tea they sample and who look for unblended teas that hail from one particular tea garden. These are typically referred to as single-estate teas.
Of course, given their nature it’s not surprising that the taste profile of a single-estate tea may vary widely. Not that this is considered to be undesirable to the adventurous tea drinkers who gravitate to such fare. A roughly analogous situation would be found in the world of spirits, where a single-malt scotch is more likely to have a unique flavor profile than a blended whisky.
Single-estate tea also tends to be of a somewhat higher quality than blended teas, though this is not always a given. They are sometimes produced in small amounts. For a few examples, check out the single-estate offerings from such modest tea gardens as Bigelow’s Charleston Tea Plantation, in South Carolina, or Britain’s Tregothnan Estate, just to name a few.
Don’t forget to check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks.