Excerpted from Culinary Tea: More Than 100 Recipes Steeped in Tradition from Around the World, by Cynthia Gold & Lisë Stern, with permissions from Running Press (c) 2010. The following excerpt can be found on Pages 40 to 41.
Creating home blends of tea is another aspect of culinary tea. You can combine a variety of teas, as well as non-tea ingredients such as spices, flowers, herbs, and dried fruits to create personal signature tea blends that you can use both for sipping and for cooking. Familiarize yourself with the ingredients you plan to use and decide what kind of flavor profile you want to create. This can be the fun part–and it’s a good way to get to know teas to use for cooking as well, as you sip and savor different teas and get to know their characteristics.
Steep a wide variety of different teas and taste them. Ask yourself what you particularly like–or dislike–about that tea. Take notes. Do you want to create something full-bodied and rich? Light and bright? Medium-bodied? Is your goal a spiced blend, a floral blend, or a fruity blend?
Keep in mind that really special teas should probably be savored on their own. But don’t make the mistake of trying to cover up an inferior tea with heavy flavors. Blending is used to create new experiences in teas, or a consistent flavor profile of a tea that changes with the seasons or growing years.
Styles of unoxidized or lightly oxidized teas.
Photo courtesy Running Press (c) 2010.
Refer to the list of Flavor Profiles of Tea on Page 29 for teas that might inspire your own blending. Some common teas to use for blending:
Darjeelings: Offer brightness and complexity. Vary by flush; can be delicate and floral, nutty, or have hints of muscatel. Nice in an afternoon blend. Takes floral notes well when used sparingly.
Lapsang Souchong: Has smokiness; good for a relaxing evening tea or smaller amounts blended into a breakfast or afternoon tea.
Yunnan: For richness, body, earthiness. Smooth and complex with a peppery tone.
Keemun: Rich, full-bodied, well-rounded character; fruity and sweet, sometimes earthy as well. Some smokiness.
Assam: For bold character, strong flavor, with a touch of maltiness. Good with milk and takes well to the addition of spices.
Ceylon: For briskness and body. Varies by region and elevation. Takes very well to fruit.
African: Rich, robust, flavorful, and brisk, sometimes sweet. Good with milk.
Chinese congou: Smooth, full-bodied, blends well with fruit or floral notes.
You can also use an almost endless variety of non-tea components. For example:
Spices (whole, cracked or ground): Cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, allspice berries, cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns
Dried or fresh flower petals: Lavender, rose petals, chrysanthemum, chamomile, hibiscus, elderflower, jasmine
Well-dried fruits: Raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, apples, pears
Dried citrus peel: Lemon, orange, lime, grapefruit
Miscellaneous: Cocoa nibs, vanilla beans