Here's why you should play with your tea

January 17, 2014

Tea is a fascinating beverage. Fascinating for many reasons. Here's one: the variations and possibilities of tea are virtually endless. A "tea"--or more properly a "tisane" (know the difference!)--can be any food product on planet earth steeped in water to make a beverage. So we are left with endless possibilities to create unique and wonderful beverages which are inexpensive, healthful, and all-together tasty. 

But there are some limitations on what we (tea purveyors) can do--and there are many things which you (the tea-drinker) can do that we cannot. This is especially true for "fruit" teas.

As a general rule, dried fruits do not add any flavor to your tea. That's right--all those fanciful "berry" teas are something of a scam because the fruit that you see does not add much to the brew. Instead, the flavor comes from flavor extracts (listed as natural or artificial flavors) thereby providing the nice, fresh, fruity flavor that you are familiar with. In short, tea companies apply flavor extracts to the dried fruit to make them impart flavor.


"Impossible!" you say.

I'd humbly suggest that you take some dried fruit--perhaps some orange peel, or some dried blueberries or apples. Anything, really. And throw a small bit of it in a cup of hot water for 5-7 minutes. Remove the fruit and test your brew. It won't taste like much. Chances are, it will taste like hot water. Dried fruit just doesn't do much. This is especially true for bagged teas--you probably saw them around the holidays. Things like "Pomegranate-Cherry Christmas Dream"--or whateverthehell abomination was on the clearance shelf at the grocer. There's no pomegranate or cherry in that drink. And even if there was, that's not where the fruit flavor comes from. The flavor comes from the last ingredient on the label--the lab-created flavoring. 

What does this mean? It means that the very best fruit teas can be made at home. Because at home--you can use fresh fruit. Or better yet, simply add a splash of fruit juice to your hot tea. Instant success. 

The possibilities are endless. If you want to sweeten your tea try honey, sugar, or agave nectar. Try putting am entire fresh orange peel in your cup. Some things will work better than others. Citrus fruits are perennial favorites.  

Don't fret if it all seems a bit confusing. The lesson is simple: play with your tea at home. Throw some things in and see what happens. Let's not make a fuss about it. We'd encourage you to get on with it. 





*There are a few exceptions. For example dried elderberries steep in hot water very well. Dried leaves of any kind, like hibiscus, can truly impart flavor. Also--essential oils that are cold pressed from fruits are genuine and provide genuine flavors. Hugo Tea Grey-Line Earl Grey is made with tea + organic bergamot oil cold-pressed from the bergamot fruit in Italy.