The distinction was made some time ago by another writer on this blog between a tea blend and a flavored tea. The former was all tea, that is, leaves from the Camellia Sinensis bush, and the latter was tea with “stuff” added such as fruits, flowers, spices, oils, etc. Now, I am going to push that concept one step further, more as a mental exercise and to get your brain cells firing as you consider the whole possibility of yet another tea term.
Something started bugging me about calling teas with stuff added “flavored teas.” It seems to imply that the tea has no flavor on its own, which is far from the truth, at least for the better teas. At some point during our tastings of various tea samples received from vendors both here in the U.S. and abroad, hubby and I started calling these teas “enhanced” instead of “flavored.” It seems more accurate to us.
Consider the sense of smell here (closely aligned with the sense of taste). A good tea master can bring out all kinds of aromas from the leaves during processing. Sugars in the leaves, for example, can be heated enough to caramelize them. You will miss this if caramel is actually added to those leaves. Of course, you can start with a rather conventional black tea that has not been processed by a tea master so that the natural flavors have been brought out, and then add in the caramel flavoring that is missing. Thus, the “enhanced” tea, having a flavor added to it that should have been there naturally. We prefer to capture the aromas of the tea leaves that a good tea master can bring out during processing.
In other examples, the stuff added doesn’t necessarily make up for bad processing but instead is meant to add flavors and aromas to the tea leaves’ flavors and aromas. This is more close to the concept of “enhancing” the tea, it seems. The cinnamon is added to work with the malty character of a tea produced from the Camellia Sinensis assamica varietal, grown in a variety of locations in the world.
Some fragrances are so overpowering that you haven’t a chance of smelling the tea leaves. One of the best known is jasmine. I find it so strong that even a tea pouch that is supposed to be airtight will emit that floral fragrance through to my nose. Cinnamon is another that can really overpower, and so does oil of bergamot (used to make Earl Grey teas).
Of course, another option might be to call these “smothered” teas where the flavor of the tea gets drowned out by the cinnamon, oil of bergamot, cloves, nutmeg, dried apple bits, cornflower petals, and whatever else gets tossed into the mix.
Just some thoughts here. Yours welcome, too!
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