Putting Tea Knowledge to Work: Black Tea Blending

November 24 2019, 5:31pm

Having visited a city centered around tea and hand-rolled my own tea, I was super excited to try out tea blending.

Actually, prior to taking this tea blending class, I didn’t think much about the idea that tea could be blended. With how much I prefer single loose-leaf teas to blends like Earl Gray, it never occurred to me the science that could be involved in blending something unique and great to sip on.

Smith Tea in Portland has tea blending classes offered through AirBnB as an experience.

The tea shop reminded me of something out of a Rudyard Kipling novel with an English meets Southeast Asia vibe.

Soon enough, we were brought into the classroom which resembled as much a tea shop as a laboratory. After introductions, we were taught a short history about camellia sinensis followed by key tea terminology.

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As much as possible, we were encouraged to use these words to describe the taste and mouthfeel of what we were doing.

Then we were taught how to blend tea.

Having thought of blending as this magical process, the method of tea blending was surprisingly simple:

  1. Brew tea in a measured way
  2. Use spoonfuls of brewed tea to create a blend
  3. Scale the dry loose leaf tea used based on the proportion of spoonfuls of tea used

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On the table were a bunch of different black loose leaf teas.

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We individually tasted each first from light to dark to get a better sense of the material we were working with. I was familiar with some of these teas, but pleasantly surprised about just how much I didn’t know.

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With these tasting notes in mind, we set out to blend the various liquor (brews made from the basic teas) to create something new that we liked.

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After the hard work of blending and sipping, you eventually come up with a tea blending formula that is essentially a liquor made out of different proportions of different loose leaf teas.

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To our tea blend, we were also able to add oils and flowers. Much like the teas that we spooned into our blending cup, we were able to add liquor made from Safflower, Cornflower, Chamomile, Bergamot, black currant, and peach skin.

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Because oils are much more concentrated, we later used a pipette to add the fruit oils to our blends.

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Eventually, everyone had a black tea blend that they liked. With the proportions of liquid tea written down, the recipe was scaled up using a larger spoon and the actual dry tea.

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Our instructor used a measuring device to give out the right number of drops of oil for those using fruity essences.

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Each tea was then placed in a bag and jumbled around to further blend the elements of the tea together.

As a class, we got to sample each others tea blends. This was probably the most fascinating part of the experience, seeing just what it is that people in the class prefer. Our teas ran the gamut, from more coffee-like teas to light and fruity ones.

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In the end, we got to leave with our own handcrafted blend. I called mine “Experiment 626” and enjoy serving it to this day.

It was a very fun and educational experience. Especially for a tea-lover like me, it was a great way to further understand and appreciate the nuances of the magical plant.

If you love tea and find yourself in Portland, don’t hesitate to give the experience a try!

Smith Teamaker

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