making and blending tea or buy pre-made??
I am exploring the idea of making my own teas but how does one learn how to do this? Do you just experiment and then when you find the right combination you make a receipt so you remember what you put in it and how much? When people have tea cafe’s do most of them make their own? Or do they outsource and get their tea from someone else and put their own name to it? I have asked a couple of local tea shops and thus far it seems they all make their own… how do I get into that business? What types of crazy licensing do you need for it? How do you learn?
Definitely shoot 52teas an email- Frank does it oh so well!
Thanks guys… I will email them on here and see what they say :)
I am primarily self-taught, because when I set out to learn about it (15 years ago) there was very few resources available, and tea merchants are quite reluctant to share the process without paying for an expensive class or two (that they teach themselves). I did manage to take a class a few years later, but, this was after I had already experimented on my own. So, this is why I say “primarily” self-taught.
Because I do have my own method about doing it – which may or may not be the “right” way, but the teas come out tasting pretty good so I’m not going to change my method – however, I too am reluctant to share my process, especially online. Not because I’m looking for a payout of any kind, but because I don’t feel comfortable teaching someone how to do something without being able to supervise what it is they’re doing.
LiberTEAS- thank u for your honesty … I am also finding it hard to find people to tell or show me :) self taught I think might really be the only way unless there is some book or reference guide out there for the general public :)! I’m thinking maybe getting a part toime job at a tea cafe that blends their own teas might be another option :) p
if you own a tea shop with various tea, I guess it is the best way to make blended tea test, which I normally do at my tea house. Sometimes, blended tea is a good try to taste.
I know frank is willing to blend and let others exclusively sell retired blends – so in addition to possibly picking a few blender’s brains you might want to start with some blends from known deliciousness while you work on your own skills?
We do custom blends at our counter for our customers. I let them pick the teas and ratios, do tasting cups for each one so they can pick it out. Then I blend it for them. Since tea is such an individual thing, it’s nice to be able to make blends individually, even though it’s time consuming and not the most profitable. It’s the personal connection that makes people return, and quality product.
To do this effectively, you need to know how to taste tea professionally, as it is hard to explain to others the characteristics you are looking for in a tea unless you know the terminology and can connect it to distinct flavors. Unfortunately, this sort of training is generally done under apprenticeship. :/ However, if you have a good palate, you might be able to make it work anyhow. :)
First, you take a flavor profile. Basically, an unblended tea or a tea blend that you think is brilliant for a certain type of tea consumer, or that seems to solve a special sort of problem (like a tea that brews well in hard water). Then you try to break down that profile into individual flavors.
Then, you find teas that have “point”, meaning that they are fairly unremarkable (but not flawed!) teas that have one or another redeeming quality. For instance, an unremarkable tasting tea with a distinct aroma, or a particular pungency, etc. You find teas that collectively have all the flavors you need in your flavor profile, and you combine them in varying proportions against an invisible base tea (ie a filler tea) until the desired flavor is achieved. Then, every year or whenever the harvest changes, you double check on your point teas to make sure that they’ve stayed the same in terms of flavor and if they’ve changed, you find suitable replacements to keep the flavor profile intact.
Do note, however: a non-successful blend is frequently worse than the sum of its parts.
Brilliant! Thank you so much… next question for you mbanu since you seem to know quite a bit… where do you do apprenticeship, any suggestions?
The obvious answer, I guess, would be to apprentice with one of the major blenders (Lipton’s, Tetley, etc). Alternately, locating a private-label blender (basically someone who produces blends for multiple smaller companies that have decided that it is more economical to outsource their blending than to have their own dedicated staff).
Barring that, there are some other areas where tea tasting is practiced, and I suppose one could try to adapt those skills to blending.
Tea brokerage firms, for instance, usually have lots of experience with tea tasting. They taste with the goal of estimating the price range a tea lot will go for when put up for auction, and which part of the industry is most likely to be interested in it (UK tea blenders, U.S. ready-to-drink iced tea manufacturers, German specialty tea wholesalers, etc.).
Some tea estates will have a taster on staff; however, their goal is generally to taste to locate flaws in made teas, and be able to trace them back to some issue in the green leaf or in the manufacturing process. (For the most part – some tea estates receive input from brokers and blenders about what sort of teas they are especially interested in, and will attempt to adjust their practices accordingly).
Also, some governments have tea tasters who help fulfill import or export laws in that country. (For instance, the United States had a tea taster, Robert Dick, to enforce the Tea Importation Act of 1897, until the repeal of that law in 1996.) I’m not certain about countries in which tea buying has been nationalized, but in most importing countries I’d imagine that any sort of government tea taster would simply be looking for major flaws – is the tea moldy, does it have a cheesy or musty characteristic that suggests improper storage, has it been adulterated, etc., with limited interest in quality.
Great topic. It is usually very surprising for guests to learn that, anyone can blend their own tea. This is one of the great benefits of buying and collecting various loose teas.
The key is to develop your tea palate and taste many teas and components, but the blending is for you, (‘Personal’, as World Tea House expresses) so just do what you like. Start small and simple. Blend two flavors together 50/50.
You can use any of your loose tea. Make it cup at a time and if you don’t like the results, there is not any great waste.
Take notes and keep track of what works and what does not.
Collect components as well as tea. Spice companies as well as tea purveyors sell components.
A Chamomile, lavender, peppermint, ginger, to name a few. Infuse and taste these on their own to learn strength and properties.
Some examples: a vanilla flavored black with a nice naturally chocolaty keemun 50/50. Then try it again with a bit of peppermint.
Another: Is your Lapsang too strong for you? Tame it bit by bit with a milder basic black.
When you expand into larger quantities, decide what your base flavor is and make that the greatest portion. Add components in small amounts and do lots of tasting as you go.
No need to go out and invest in lots of tea to become a blender. Just start with what is in your own tea cupboard. Have fun with it.
Most folks respond with, “It just never occurred to me”, when I tell them they can do it.
I buy tea from several companies, but some of my best sellers are the blends I do myself. I figured it out. You can too. This is only based on my own experience as a Tea Shop proprietor. I don’t do classes nor have I ever attended one.
If anyone wants to exchange a taste of a self blended tea, do contact me.
I just wanted to add that there IS a difference between blending tea and flavoring it.
columbiakate thank you so much for you help on this. Great points, it is funny I blend my personal teas a lot for my own taste but for some odd reason I didn’t really think about it as blending in the business sense. Thanks for your help it is appreciated