Creating new blends may seem like black magic to some people, but it is actually a very methodical process and very similar to creating a food recipe. The key to creating a good blend is understanding your ingredients.
We take a look at the step by step process of creating anew blend, and give some tips for you to begin crafting your own!
Unlike many of the recipes created in your kitchen, the blending of teas often requires a brief before beginning your creation! Our briefs usually come from one of two places:
1. A great new ingredient that we are dying to play with
Sometimes we discover something new to the tea industry, or even a familiar ingredient available in a new form or cut; and we simply can’t wait to play with it to see what can be done with it! Some new ingredients taste great as a standalone infusion and some require blending with other ingredients to really make them shine. The beauty of being a master blender is having the opportunity to explore and experiment with what works best!
2. A particular requirement from the finished blend
For example, many of our health tonics have been created with specific health benefits in mind; our Immune Boost combines a range of herbs and spices with health benefiting properties with some tasty ingredients for flavour for a blend that is designed to be both delicious and revitalising. On the other hand, our Chamomile Calm was created to promote a sense of calm and wellbeing whilst providing a very drinkable alternative to pure Chamomile or Rose (which are not enjoyed by all!) When the brief details what the final infusion should do, it significantly narrows the range of ingredietns that can be used to achieve it.
Step 2: Test your ingredients!
In order to correctly use ingredients in a blend, one must understand the ingredients themselves. This often requires a lot of testing of the pure ingredient and finding out how it intersacts with other ingredients!
A really good example of an ingredient that requires quite a lot of testing is mint. At first, it may seem simple, mint is a very familiar ingredient with widespread use. However, when infused in water instead of mixed into food, mint is a very different ingredient.
For example: many people now keep fresh mint leaves to be infused in water and sweetened to taste as their mint infusion at home or at work, but fresh mint isn’t at all suitable for blending. It has a short shelf-life, may carry bugs, chemicals or pesticides and can produce an unpleasant taste when mixed with some ingredients.
Dried mint alleviates many of these issues, but then there are additional questions: peppermint or spearmint? Powder, cut leaves or whole leaves? All of these have completely different effects on the final blend!
Like any ingredient, the more you use it, the more able you will be to select the correct leaf and cut to use in your blend to create the taste and effect that you desire. But until then the key is taste, taste and taste again! Brew different mints types to compare against one another; brew different cuts of the same type to discover the level of menthol present in each cut type and even try adding milk, lemon and / or sweeteners to understand how altering the flavour may work and to begin to understand which flavours and textures work – and which don’t!
Step 3: A simple blend
Once you have developed a basic understanding of the ingredient(s), try creating a very simple blend or two with flavours that you think might work well. The key at this stage is keeping the number of ingredients as small as possible (two is usually enough) so that you can see how the flavours interact with each other on a very basic level. Often, creating 3 or 4 simple blends to compare is a really good way to try out different proportions and find what tastes best!
A really good way to try this yourself is with dried fruit peels. Blend together orange or lemon peels with an aromatic or complex tea such as Ceylon or Oolong, or even a robust Green; in different proportions like so:
Based on 20g: Tea 15g : 5g Peels Tea 10g : 10g Peels Tea 5g : 15g Peels
Compare these 4 blends and determine which you enjoy most, which balances the flavours best and which absolutely don’t work. From your favourites continue to refine the proportions until you have found the best balance of flavours and you have your simple blend!
Step 4: More complexity
Your two ingredient blend may be perfect as it is, but many simple blends can benefit a lot of the addition of additional ingredients. This is especially the case where you are looking to bring out characteristics that are either present in the simple blend and you would like to make more prominent OR that are present in the individual ingredients but dulled in the blend, which you would prefer to reverse.
For more complex bends, knowledge of your ingredients is absolutely key. For example, in our tea and peel simple blend, we could look to bring out more citrus flavour from the blend. We could do this by adding high citrus herbs such as lemon grass, lemon balm and lemon myrtle, or we could add other dried peels or fruits for sweetness or tartness without specific lemon flavours.
Once you have an idea of the ingredients that can be used, step 2 is repeated with different proportions of new ingredients added into the blend and then refined until the desired flavour is achieved.
For the most part, this is the whole process! Some ingredients (such as essenses, oils and powders) are more complex to add and can involve different equipment – but you shouldn’t need to go into that level of complexity blending at home. So why not try some blends of your own this weekend? Our organic ingredients are perfect for blending and tried and tested for both quality and versatility to combine with teas and other ingredients!
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