Tea is extraordinary - how many flavors and scents can come from just one little leaf! This all depends on where the tea was grown, how it was processed, and what climate they were exposed it to. But don't worry; we mustn't be tea experts to appreciate it. We can still enjoy experimenting with different additions, like fragrant jasmine or other herbs, fruits, and spices. There's no wrong way to enjoy a cup of tea!
Let's talk about how tea gets its flavors! But first, we need to clarify some terms. Inclusions are things like fruit, spices, or herbs added to tea leaves for visual appeal or taste. Extracts are oils taken from different parts of plants that give tea its unique aroma and flavor. Sometimes, these extracts are made by pressing or soaking, but other times they require complex processes to get the perfect taste.
Inclusions are additional components like dried fruit and spices that add visual appeal and sensory perks to tea. Adding inclusions to your tea can change the aroma and flavor, but they may need to be more robust to satisfy your taste buds. This is where Natural Identical flavoring agents come in.
Extracts are flavoring agents derived by extracting essential oils from plants like fruits, blossoms, and roots. They then carry that plant’s unique flavor or scent, with some requiring advanced extraction methods. What happens is that the flavoring agent is poured or sprayed over the dry leaf, and then the leaves are blended to make sure the flavor is evenly distributed. Larger tea companies usually do this in large rotating drums filled with hundreds of kilograms of tea. And guess what? Most teas can be flavored within 30 minutes, but some flavors may take longer.
Nature-Identical flavors come from natural ingredients aided by chemical synthesis. They tend to be more stable and less expensive than biological flavoring agents but are considered "artificial" by the FDA. They're thicker than water but thinner than olive oil and are usually added to the tea in a percentage ranging from 0.5% to 5% of the tea's weight, depending on the desired flavor strength.
Artificial flavors are changes made in the chemical structure of a naturally occurring molecule to create a different, more intense, or less expensive flavor not found in nature.
On the other hand, scented teas derive their unique aroma and flavor from having intense flavors close. Jasmine and Lapsang Souchong teas are great examples. Some jasmine teas may be artificially flavored, but the real stuff is scented with actual Jasmine blossoms, which are then removed (since they have a short shelf life). Meanwhile, Lapsang Souchong gets its flavor by being exposed to the smoke of burning pine roots. Cool, right?