THE ART OF BLENDING YOUR OWN TEA
There’s nothing better than staying in on a cold winter day with a great book and a warming cup of tea, and, with the temps outside here in NYC reaching the negatives this past weekend, that’s exactly what I did! When I make tea, I tend to do a bit more than 1 bag and go. I have my own sachets and add a little of this and that until I get what I want. This weekend in the bitter cold was a bit of assam with a little earl grey with blue flowers and a star anise pod. Blending your own tea is so fun and personal (not to mention makes great, handmade hostess gifts) - thought I would share a few thoughts on how to do it!
CHOOSE A BASE
The first part of the tea blending process is choosing your base tea flavor. The most common are Black Tea (full-bodied, strong), green tea (mild, earthy almost grassy flavor), white Tea (mild and sweet), and oolong (floral and aromatic). I'm also a big fan of rooiboos tea, which is a red tea with a mild, sweet flavor that doesn't have any caffeine. Any of these bases can be bought online or in a specialty store and should makeup the majority of your tea mixture. Depending on which base you choose you can then start to add other ingredients (citrus, fruity, florals, spices). It may seem a little daunting at first, but just think of the tea combinations you see at the grocery store (like green tea peppermint, black tea cardamon) and then build from there!
HOW TO PAIR WITH OTHER FLAVORS
Now for the fun part! Creating different blends... Think of the flavor and strength of the base tea and blend from there. Black tea is a very bold tea and pairs well with other bold flavors: citrus, hibiscus, chocolate. A mild green tea can lean towards the typical Asian flavors: ginger, lemongrass; whereas, a bolder green tea can be paired with light fruity flavors: blackberry, pomegranate, lemon. White tea is a more delicate one to pair with, so I lean towards orange blossom or fresh mint with a little light spice. Rooibos I love to blend with a bit of vanilla bean powder and rose.
You can use other dried teas (chamomile, lemon balm, rose hips, hibiscus, rose), fresh herbs (mint, basil, sage) and fresh fruit rinds and aromatics (lemon, orange, apple peel, ginger, lemongrass). Start with a little, maybe a teaspoon, and add to your taste preference.
DON'T FORGET THE SPICE!
You know me, I can never resist a bit of spice. Cardamom and black tea are a match made in heaven. Star anise pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves and leftover vanilla beans are perfect and can go with both bold and milder teas.
HOW MUCH, HOW HOT & HOW LONG
Generally, my rule of thumb for teas is I use less tea when the leaves are smaller and a bit more when the leaves are bigger. Vague, I know! But for 8 ounces of water, if the tea is dense and tightly packed (think black tea or gunpowder green), I use 1 to 2 teaspoons. If it's very loose with big leaves (white tea or hibiscus), I use about 2 to 3 teaspoons.
Water temperature is important too. For black, dark oolong, herbal/fruity and rooiboos teas, use boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes. For white, green, and green oolong, stick to water that was boiled and has had some time to cool down - still hot but not scorching. These teas usually only need 2 to 3 minutes to brew.
Enjoy and happy blending!