One of the many charming things about tea is its natural flavor and aroma. Tea can be enhanced simply by adding flavors to your tea leaves. One of the keys to making a good tea is to know what extra ingredients to add to enhance the flavor of your tea. Before we get started, let us explore some of the terms used when adding extra flavor to your tea.
Ways to flavor tea
Inclusions are blossoms, pieces of dried fruit, herbs or spices that are added to tea for a visual or sensory effect. These items make the tea appear more attractive to the tea drinker. These inclusions can also add flavor and aroma to your cup of tea.
Extracts are flavoring agents derived from leaves or the fruit of a plant and turned into an essential oil. These essential oils will carry the scent and flavor of the plant that it was expelled from. Some extracts are easier to make than others. For example, lemon extract can be obtained by pressing the peel of a lemon, where vanilla extract is more difficult to make and requires soaking vanilla beans in alcohol. Extracts are great flavor enhancers for tea and can be used to get unique flavors.
Nature Identical flavoring agents are derived by chemists and use chemical synthesis and natural substances to get the flavor. Nature Identical flavors are pure natural flavorings and tend to cost less than extracts do. Many products are flavored with Natural Identical flavoring, however, the FDA put this category of flavoring in the same category as artificial flavorings, though they are actually not artificial and natural.
Artificial flavorings are created by altering the chemical structure of a naturally occurring molecule and changing the flavor to be more intense or cost less money to manufacture. The molecules created are made in a lab and do not occur naturally. Artificial flavorings are not natural and can not be found in nature.
How are flavorings added to tea?
A tea can be flavored by adding inclusions or extracts. Inclusions alter the flavor and smell of the tea but only have a light aroma and flavor. Most flavored teas are flavored with Natural Identical flavoring agents. These agents are thicker than water and have more flavor than inclusions do. The amount of Natural Identical flavoring used depends on the desired strength and flavor. Often times 0.5% – 5% of the tea has been flavored.
To apply an extract to tea leaves, the flavoring agent is poured or sprayed over the dry tea leaves and then the leaves are mixed together and blended to distribute the flavor. Teas that are made in factories will often do this in a large rotating drum to ensure that the flavoring is distributed onto the tea evenly. It takes under 30 minutes for most tea leaves to absorb the flavoring, though some types of tea may take longer to absorb the flavoring than others do.
Scented teas such as Jasmine or Lapsang Souchong derive their flavor and aroma from being close by strong scents. While some jasmine teas might be artificially flavored, natural jasmine teas are scented with jasmine blossoms which are later on removed from the tea before brewing. Jasmine blossoms have a shorter shelf life than tea does, so this is the reason they are removed from the tea before it is packaged. Lapsang Souchong is scented by exposing the tea to the smoke of a burning pine root.