We all know that tea is the nation’s favourite hot drink. Most people have a favourite brand – but whether you drink PG Tips, Tetleys or Yorkshire Tea, they’re all proprietary blends of black tea that have been carefully created to achieve their particular flavour. If you fancy a change from regular builders’ tea, how about creating your own tea blend?
Not as scary as it sounds, making your own custom loose leaf tea blends from scratch is actually remarkably easy and fun to do. Perhaps you fancy experimenting with different fruit, herbs or spices to give your tea some oomph, or maybe you’re thinking of making Christmas gifts for your friends? You never know, it could even open up a whole new career path for you!
So, what exactly is blended tea?
A tea blend is a mixture of various ingredients, the main one being tea or herbal tea. Traditional tea companies have professionals with very advanced palates who mix different types of tea from the tea plant camellia sinensis to create the sophisticated commercial tea blends that we all know and love. Don’t worry, we won’t be doing that here.
Instead, we’ll be starting with a base tea of your choice, to which an almost limitless range of ingredients can be added to produce your unique and exciting blend. You really can’t go wrong with any combination – some will be bolder or spicier than others – as long as the result is to your taste. Whether you choose herbs or spices, dried fruit, seeds or flowers or anything else, the only condition is that it can be steeped in boiling water and extract flavour.
Shall we make a start?
Step 1: Select your base tea
First off, you need to choose your base tea. This can be any loose leaf tea or herbal tea and will make up anywhere between 40% and 80% of the final tea blend by weight.
Popular loose leaf teas you could use include:
- Black Tea including Darjeeling, Assam, and Ceylon from the Indian subcontinent, and Keemun or Yunnan from China
- Green Tea such as Sencha (Japanese) or Gunpowder (Chinese)
- Chinese White Tea
- Red Rooibos or Redbush Tea, made from the Fabaceae bush indigenous to South Africa
- Yerba Mate Tea derived from a South American tree from the holly family
Step 2: Choose your herbal ingredients
Now is the time to get creative. When it comes to choosing ingredients to add to your base tea, the only limitation is your imagination! If you’re stuck for ideas, take a look at the herbal tea aisle in your nearest supermarket or health food shop for inspiration, or peruse the herb/spice rack in your kitchen.
Favourites to use in unique tea blends include:
- Peppermint, spearmint leaves, nettle, lemongrass
- Chamomile, lavender, rose petals, rosehip, hibiscus, echinacea
- Dried apple, lemon, cherry, red berries, elderberries
- Cloves, pepper, dried chillis, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, aniseed, coriander
- Liquorice root, ginger, turmeric, valerian
- Vanilla, cocoa nibs
Step 3: Blend your ingredients
This is where it gets interesting. Once you’ve collected all the components to go into your new tea blend, it’s time to get mixing. This is by no means an exact science – the result will come down to your personal taste preferences and it may take a bit of trial and error to get you there, adjusting as you go.
Start by taking a big enough mixing bowl for the quantity of tea you’re making and measure out your base tea – 40-80% of the total blend volume. Next, use your instinct and taste buds to guide you to the end result, tasting as you go. Blend it all together using a large spoon, or use a mixing jar with a lid and give everything a good shake.
While you’re experimenting, it is highly recommended that you keep an exact record of what you’ve been doing. Write down your blend and the precise proportions of ingredients used so that you can remember it when you go back to tweak it, should it be necessary.
When you’re happy with the flavour and aroma of your own master blend, keep your creation in an airtight jar in the kitchen cupboard ready for enjoying a cup at a time. Better still, make large quantities, choose the perfect packaging and turn your herbal tea blends into great looking gifts.
Step 4: Enjoy a unique hot beverage
Finally, it’s time to enjoy the fruit of your labours. Grab your favourite tea pot and brew your first batch of tea. For best results, make the tea according to the instructions for your base tea. Green tea, for instance, should be steeped for 3 minutes in nearly but not actually boiling water (80-85°C is ideal) so the tea doesn’t develop a bitter taste.
Again, it may take a bit of experimentation until you get the taste just as you like it – just make sure you keep a log of any changes on the recipe sheet.
Guest post by Dakota Murphey
Images provided by author