The tradition of flavoring tea goes back to many centuries. Nearly as long as tea has been made it has been flavored. However, it is said that the idea for flavoring tea came about as a bit of an accident. Many years ago tea gardeners in China planted other trees to provide shade and moisture for their tea plants.
They soon discovered that the tea trees that were planted near certain trees, such as peach, plum magnolia, and apricot trees produced teas that had absorbed the aroma and flavor of the fruit and flower trees blossoms. You’ll note that some teas are considered flavored, while others are considered scented. Flavored teas actually taste of the addition used, while scented teas have merely absorbed the addition’s fragrance.
From here forward, the tradition of flavoring and scenting teas grew, and teas began to be flavored and scented intentionally during processing, allowing for a wider variety of flavors than could ever be gained from planting trees near the tea gardens.
The first scented tea is purported to be jasmine tea, created centuries ago in China by infusing the tea leaves with jasmine blossoms at night when the jasmine naturally releases its fragrance. Though the jasmine provides more of a fragrance to the tea than a flavor, the jasmine blossoms also impart a slight sweetness to the tea.
Another very old flavored tea is Feizi Zhao (created for Feizi, the most beautiful and great love of Emperor Zuan Xong of the Tang Dynasty). This tea is flavored with the juices of the litchee fruit, purported to be an aphrodisiac. Today the tart and sweet juices of this white jade fruit are carefully suffused during the steaming process of either white or green tea, or heated and reheated into Congo black tea leaves.
Today, a large percentage of the tea consumed in the world is flavored with some other botanical. Flavored teas can be made from any variety of tea; green, white, black or oolong. Traditions for flavoring tea vary throughout the world. Often, a region of the world will flavor its teas using herbs, spices, fruits and flowers that are native to their area. Some of the traditional ways of flavoring and scenting teas throughout the world include:
Russia – In Russia, black teas are often flavored at the time they’re brewed, rather than at the time they’re produced. This is done by putting a jab of jam at the bottom of the teacup and sipping the tea through a sugar cube.
India – India is one of the world’s largest producers of tea. The Darjeeling region of India is known for the distinct muscatel flavor that is inherent in the tea. Assam teas are also grown in India and are often used in a variety of black tea blends. In addition to the distinct inherent flavors of these tea varieties, it is common for Indians to flavor them with cardamom, dried ginger, cloves and cinnamon cooked with milk. Most of these flavored Darjeeling and Assam teas are consumed in the country of India.
Turkey – Though tea is not grown in Turkey, they are very fond of black teas grown elsewhere in the world and flavored with roses and apples.
England – One of the most famous flavored teas in the world is a favorite in England. Earl Grey tea is flavored with the oil of the bergamot orange, a strongly citrus orange that looks more like a pear. This tea was created for Earl Charles Grey, who was a diplomat for Britain. Earl Grey went on a diplomatic mission to China, where legend has it that he saved the life of the son of a local Mandarin Chinese man. The boy was drowning and the Earl pulled him from the water. The man gave the Earl the recipe for the tea as a gift of gratitude. Even today, this tea is one of the most popular flavored teas. Earl Grey later became prime minister of England, but he is better remembered for his tea than for his tenure as prime minister.
Morocco – About a century and a half ago, the Moroccans began scenting green gunpowder tea with fresh and dried mint leaves. This tea is known as Moroccan mint and is now enjoyed all over the world. Making it in Morocco is still treated as an ancient ritual.
So, as you can see, there are many famous flavored teas. And, there are many more that may not be famous in the same right as these teas but are still wildly popular as a favorite beverage. In fact, among even the most serious tea connoisseurs, there is at least one flavored tea that ranks among their favorites for daily drinking.
The possibilities and combinations of flavored teas are nearly endless. They can be made with any variety of tea base and flavored with any flavor or combination of flavors that exist.
If you’re new to drinking flavored tea, you’re missing a real treat. Some are extremely famous and should certainly be part of your tea repertoire. There are so many from which to choose, you’ll have trouble trying them all. But, you’ll not have any trouble finding a few to call your favorites.
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