Tea Blending and Breakfast with Kevin
The Camellia Sinensis catalogue is comprised of a massive diversity of teas. Each of these teas has been selected from a tasting table from one producer and represents one day’s production in a single section of a single field in a single garden of a specific terroir. It is a little like a single barrel Scotch, Wine or Bourbon. There is no better way to enjoy the very specific complexities of the flavours of the field, the plants’ reaction to their environment at that moment, and the choices made by the tea maker when he processed these leaves. It is with this style of teas that we have made our name. As tea tasters for this company, we are hunting for the special batches of each growing region, each and every season. Ephemeral batches with the changing flavour profiles from season to season and year to year are our reality and the constant adventure of our trusty client base.
But the majority of the tea world does not work like this at all. For larger companies it is essential to standardize the product so that it is constant, always giving the same flavour and never changing. Behind this standardization is another art: the art of blending. The teas that we find in our grocery store are made of complex recipes that have been perfected over decades. The ingredients are all teas that bring slightly different aspects to the blend, some bring body, others colour, others flavour elements, others texture. Alone they are simple and unsatisfying to drink but all carefully blended together with precision they will have a harmonious full flavour, perfect for a traditional ‘cuppa’ with a cloud of milk. Many of our grocery store products maintain their product quality in the same way: wines, olive oils etc. Also, the tiny, exclusive batches of tea that you find in the Camellia Sinensis catalogue are such a miniscule fraction of the quantities needed for these large-scale operations that blending tea recipes is their only option.
Twinings are a tea company based in the UK. The Twinings family have been trading tea for 10 generations. They started blending tea back in the 1700’s and are seen as the originators of the practice. Visiting the tasting room at their headquarters in Andover in the UK their head taster talked me through the process of making their famous English Breakfast blend.
Teas arrive in their warehouse from all over the globe to be blended together. The tea gardens of many countries that they source from are all using an industrial system of manufacture called CTC (short for Crush Tear Curl) where the leaves are processed into small granules of a standard size that will later mix easily with similar CTC teas of other regions. If you have ever opened a grocery store teabag you will have seen these ‘cut-tea’ granules. Aside from size, the flavour profiles of these teas are simple and constant, perfect to use as reliable ingredients in a blend.
Twinings’ English Breakfast contains 17 different teas! Not only that but there are 19 different versions of their English Breakfast for different countries, to suit their regional flavour esthetic and the local water they are using. So, blending these teas to taste exactly like the previous is a very delicate art and takes years of experience.
Most of our clients like to explore the black tea section of their catalogue for their traditional breakfast cuppa but we recently came up with the project to create a blend of some of these delicious teas to make our own hearty breakfast tea. So with the help of Audrey-Anne of our Quebec store we started experimenting with various teas and quantities of each. We are using whole leaf teas from the collection, teas with complex flavour profiles and already good to drink on their own, so we stuck to blending four origins that we found were complimentary for body, throat-feel, bouquet etc. After a few weeks of tests we came up with a full bodied tea blend with four teas from around the World. The result is quite exceptional!
Kevin’s Breakfast Blend
With teas from India, Sri Lanka, Rwanda and Colombia, this delightful blend of ‘strong character’ black teas from the four corners of the globe is a perfect way to start the day or boost an afternoon.
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