Everyone loves the holiday season, but it also a drain on the wallet and limits the funds available for new teas. By this time of the year I also usually have a teaspoon of this and a bit of that, but by themselves, they are not enough for Gong-Go Flash-Infusion. Rather than sulk over the lack of new teas on the way I gather all my odds and ends of the year’s tastings together and start blending my own flavored teas.
I love trying new teas and find just as much pleasure in making my own custom blends. During the holidays I’m also stocking up for baking, so my cupboards are also full of dried fruit and spices. The timing is perfect for brand new teas of my own creation!
Now some of you might think this sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really simple and there is a big reason I look forward to this tea time of the year – the natural flavors. Sure there are all kinds of flavored teas out there but I promise you they are all packed full of chemicals labeled as “natural flavors.” One of the reasons I drink tea is for its health benefits. I take great care into what I put into my body and insist on knowing exactly what goes I’m consuming.
The whole concept of what constitutes “natural flavorings” is a big controversy and designed to support manufactures not consumers as far as I‘m concerned. Here is what the FDA says about it:
(3) The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors, include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants listed in subpart A of part 582 of this chapter, and the substances listed in 172.510 of this chapter.
I don‘t know about you, but I’m very skeptical about flavored teas and what’s in them. If you doubt what I’m saying here test it yourself. Take one of your favorite teas, I suggest a simple one like apple spice and pour some out. Take a look at the amount of fruit in it then try to replicate the flavor with the same amount of fruit you see and a loose leaf tea – I promise, you’ll never succeed.
Working for Teavana I learned all those bits and pieces you see are for show only, the “natural flavors” found in flavored tea are CHEMICALS produces by CHEMISTRY, not whole foods. I personally don‘t want them in my body and it’s the reason I love when the holidays roll around and I get to blend my own.
Now don‘t expect to add a piece of apple and get apple flavored tea. You need to use dried fruit and not sparingly. For the base notes I start with 10 to 20 grams depending on the type of tea I’m blending. Black teas need more whereas white teas need less. Getting just the right mix is fun, and when you succeed at the perfect blend I promise you’ll want to run and tell the world about your new tea!
Any kind of dried fruit is a great place to start. They can then be enhanced with fresh citrus rind and/or spices. Don’t be afraid to adventure out of the sweet realm either. You’ll be amazed at what one peppercorn, a tiny dash of cyan pepper, or a pinch of dried basil will do for the endnotes.
This year I found a whole tin of Hubei Province Keemun Ji Hong shoved into the back of my cupboard. I’ve also got a some Japanese Sencha & a bit of Pain Mu Tan that I’m blending up with goji berries. Here are the two blends I’ll be sharing in later posts for the holidays: Cran-Apple Spiced Keemun Steamer & Goji Lime Punch.
So, don‘t fret when your wallet says you can‘t get that new tea to try, I promise if you take a good look, there are all kinds of new teas to try hiding right in your kitchen. I’d love to hear what you come up with so be sure to let me know in the comments.
Cheers & Happy Holidays ~ Tea Gong-Go Guy