So i had some black tea today...

Dear teaheads,

I’ve just had a black tea made from supposedly unflavored assamica material. What if I told you that it smelled and tasted like a strawberry jam? The flavor was prominent to such a degree that I suspect it has some flavoring added but i can’t know for sure. Therefore I would like to ask you: Can black tea exhibit such a characteristic without any additives?


11 Replies
tperez said

Good black teas can be very fruity! Especially on the second or third steep, sometimes I find Yunnan blacks to have an almost artificial tasting fruity sweetness like gummy worms.

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AJ said

It can. I mean, not to the point that I straight up mistake it for the genuine article. The assamica varietal in particular, when it’s not very, very, very malty, I find to be very fruity. Especially Taiwan-grown assamicas; Ruby, Sun-Moon Lake, etc.

I once had a dan cong from Life in Teacup that was straight up peach, right down to the astringency reminiscent to the fuzzy quality of the skin.

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MrQuackers said

Fruit flavours are common in other plant based drinks and food. Coffee and dark chocolate can taste like cherries, for example.

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Ken said

Yunnan black tea can have dark fruit flavors, But I find I get more chocolate flavors

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I agree with others that different teas can definitely taste like fruit, but the matter of degree is kind of the thing. If it tastes like a flavored tea, a lot like strawberry jam, then that would seem unusual.

If you mean the tea is from Yunnan—where is it from?—strawberry jam doesn’t sound like part of what one typically runs across. Yam and sweet potato would be more common, and cocoa more typical off the fruit range, and somehow dark cherry would even seem to make more sense. But then who knows; there are outliers related to how different teas come across, and different inputs that change the effects.

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Thanks for the replies.

John, description says it’s from Mengku.

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Yunnan then, although I’m not the right person to break down sub-regions and individual styles at the next level. I help run a tea group on Facebook, I’ll ask them about this there too.

Even just due to processing differences final results can vary so much that—within a limited range—it seems a tea could naturally taste like lots of different things. Leaf growing conditions are also a factor. A friend who makes Wuyi Yancha said they could tell one version of Rou Gui was going to be exceptionally fruity early in processing, from the leaf scent (I forget how early, if they had some idea when they picked it). She wasn’t completely clear on what causes that; it seemed the growing condition inputs taken as a whole enable a lot of variation. People sometimes say tea plants can pick up flavors from what is growing around them but I have no idea about that.

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In my (somewhat limited) experience with artificially flavored teas, the flavor diminishes quickly after the first steep as the flavoring agent is washed off. Natural tea flavors, on the other hand, tend to linger as long as the tea steeps out. This is assuming quality tea and gongfu brewing.

Not saying this is a surefire way of telling artificially flavored teas from the real deal but it seems consistent in my experience. So in your case, if you make multiple short infusions and the strawberry is strong the first steep and then goes away, I’d say it’s artificial.

This seems like a sound approach to me. I did some experiments and the flavor diminished dramatically after 2-3 steeps. It settled into something ordinary resembling black tea after that.

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A few other people did discuss this question when I posted it in a Facebook tea group but there wasn’t much consensus. Tea flavors vary so much and interpretation varies so much almost anything seems possible, but a few people that have tried a lot of Yunnan black teas had never experienced anything like a strawberry aspect at all, so it seemed unusual. The matter of degree seems the thing; if it tastes just like a flavored tea it probably is one, and if strawberry is layered in as a normal flavor aspect it seems more reasonable, maybe just atypical. I can’t link to just a post there but I can link to the group, but it will disappear down the list of topics before too long.

Thank you for your survey!

Unfortunately I am inclined to think that some additives are present in this tea. I’ll have to let my friends drink it to get a second opinion on that.

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