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Flavored teas.

The practice of flavoring tea is not a 1970s invention, as one might imagine. On the contrary, it is an ancient practice reaching back almost 800 years. During the Sung dynasty in the 13th Century, people in China quite commonly drank jasmine or rose flavored tea.

During my travels to tea growing countries throughout the world, I was able to observe how different nations use different methods of flavoring tea to suit their own particular taste. In India, saffron is a popular additive for black tea, in Ceylon they like cardamon, in Georgia a spoonful of strawberry jam, while the Moroccans like a sprig of fresh mint. The addition of milk and sugar is almost universally known. The north Germans have their own heart warming recipe to counteract the often wet and chilly climate - they add a shot of rum to their tea. In addition to making for an interesting flavor, you can image how this practice enlivens the social aspects of tea drinking.

Flavored tea has quite a time-honored tradition in the western world, too, its origins going back nearly 200 years. The first flavored tea to gain popularity in Europe was Earl Grey. There are a number of conflicting legends surrounding the origin or invention of this classic flavored tea; for example, that tea perfumed with the oil from the peel of the bergamotte, a citrus fruit, was drunk in China in ancient times.

When the British diplomat, the second Earl Gray, was visiting China on a mission in 1830, he made the acquaintance of this tea and brought the recipe home with him. From England, Earl Grey tea proceeded to spread its popularity throughout the world.

About 25 years ago, the tea trade ventured into diversfication of flavoring tea in a serious manner. Today, we have a palette of about 100 different flavor compositions which can be found on supermarket shelves, at retailers' stores, and in speciality tea shops alongside the classic types of black tea from India, Sri Lanka, and Africa. In Germany alone, every year, about two million kilograms of tea are flavored; that is about 50,000 chests, which is equivalent to a market share of approximately 10%.

Within 10 years, flavored tea in all its many variations has gained a firm footing in the consumers' preference. Favorite types are still Earl Grey, vanilla, wild cherry, and a few others. And still, the search for new, subtle combinations of black tea and flavoring continues.

You may ask what exactly is this "flavoring" we are talking about. Well, flavoring is a combination of substances which are so concentrated in their natural state that undiluted, they would be unpalatable. They are used to impart a special aroma and flavor to food, beverages, and semi-luxuries. The ECC flavoring regulation distinguishes between the following types of flavoring:


The term "flavoring" denotes chemically defined substances which have the ability to impart a characteristic's smell and taste. These flavorings are available in the form of natural flavoring, nature-identical flavoring and artificial flavoring. They are also naturally grown flavor components of flavoring extracts.

The flavoring regulation further makes a clear distinction between three different types of flavoring which are chemically identical, namely natural flavoring.


Natural flavoring denotes chemically defined substances which have the ability to impart a special smell or taste, which are isolated by physical methods from basic materials of vegetable or animal origin, or which are extracted from such basic materials of vegetable or animal origin, or which are extracted from such basic materials by microbiological methods.

The basic materials can either be used as they are, or they can processed first using conventional methods for processing foodstuffs in order to make them suitable for human consumption, such as drying, roasting, heating, and fermenting.


This term denotes chemical defined substances with flavoring characteristics which are obtained by chemical synthesis or by isolation using chemical processes and whose molecular structure is identical to the natural flavor.


These are chemically defined substances having flavorings characteristics which are obtained through chemical synthesis, but which do not so far exist as a natural flavor.

Artificial flavoring plays a minor role in Germany, where at the present time only a few of these substances are admissible. Artificial flavorings are not used in tea.


These are mixtures of natural flavoring substances obtained from aromatic basic materials. The processors used to obtain them are extraction, distillation, or pressing. The natural basic materials could be aromatic plants, fruits, or blends of these.

Using these means, the extract contains the same mixture of flavoring components as the actual plant itself.

The most obvious example of flavoring tea using aromatic extracts is the use of the ethereal oils of citrus fruits, such as bergamotte or orange. However, not all extracts obtained from fruits and herbs are abundant enough and stable over a sufficient period of time to be suitable for flavoring tea. In this case, we use nature-identical flavoring or mixtures of natural and nature identical products. Nature-identical flavoring has the following advantages over natural flavoring:

* It is available in uniform quality, so there is less dependence upon climate fluctuations and risk of uneven results;

* There are no large price fluctuations from year to year; and

* On the whole, nature identical flavorings are cheaper and therefore more economical than natural flavorings.

In addition, nature identical flavoring has numerous technological advantages, such as:

* It is impervious to the influence of heat;

* High acid resistance; and

* Very good storability.

These points show that nature-identical flavors are indispensible for a great part of flavored foodstuffs. Flavored teas also contain partially dried fruits, spices, leaves, and blossoms. Taste and odor of some qualities are obtained only by adding spices (as for instance ginger, aniseed, and vanilla).

The nature additives, which means dried fruits, etc., have the following purposes:

* Giving typical taste;

* Rounding off the taste; and

* Appearance.

To the third point, I may add that tea is also bought by the eyes. When an importer is purchasing orthodox tea, that means not flavored, the appearance is an important consideration too.

By means of the quality mango indica, the variety of ingredients necessary for a well-balanced composition are: tea, sunflowers, cactus flowers, and flavor.

In the middle of the 1980s, we considered to offer these types of tea as fannings tea. In order to flavor these fannings, initially we sprayed those offs with the respective flavors which we used for the leaf teas. But as to the relative dosage of about 2-4%, the flavoring of fannings caused problems. The teas stuck together, which was difficult when packing them into teabags. That is why we as tea packers were already in the middle of the 1980s on the lookout for alternative ways of flavoring.

The first challenges for flavor manufacturers began when they were invited to sample granulates which were added to teabag teas as flavoring substances. At this time, the flavor industry, along with the equipment industry, was not in the position to handle the demand of these new types of products. This was the reason why flavored teabag teas were introduced relatively late in the market.

As these flavor granules gradually developed, it became clear that the people who flavor tea and the people who produce the flavoring must work hand in hand in order to achieve the desired goal. Optimal solutions were found for the demands placed on the new flavor granules with respect to particle size, solubility, hygroscopicity, and hardness. The cooperation led to additional special products having varying characteristics. For instance, it is possible to include tea powder or tea dust in the granulate alongside the flavor components.

Once a few flavor manufacturers have specialized in the supply of flavor granules, the industry reacts very quickly by introducing different types of flavored tea bags onto the market.


Technically speaking, this process is the simplest one, and requires the least investment. The flavoring substances are sprayed onto tea while it is tossed in a rotating drum. With this process, the various stability levels can have a negative effect. Loose tea leaves and finely cut tea has a minimum keeping period of 12-18 months. Any oil or flavoring sprayed onto the tea will not keep for this length of time without some flavor being lost. This is an important consideration in favor of flavor granules.


Granules are produced from flavor-capsuled pulverized flavoring and are subjected to a compacting process which gives them good keeping properties, so that they can survive this period of storage with practically no loss of flavor. However, some manufacturers are not in a position to ensure that the individual components have a uniform loose weight, which is necessary to obtain a homogeneous blend of tea substances. Therefore, they cannot fall back on granules. For these manufacturers, a different method of flavoring can be used.


By applying a special coating to the tea, the flavor is bound to the surface of the tea with the result that this bonding of tea and flavor provides additional protection against environmental influences. This side effect has a very positive influence on the keeping properties of these products.

However, the fine flavoring and the best ingredients are of no use at all, unless the basic product, the tea, is selected so as to properly match its intended purpose. This is not a technical problem but a challenge for the tea taster's expertise. Only his competence and his organoleptic ability can ensure the right choice of tea for the creation of a flavored variety of tea. It takes the knowledge of an expert to select the most suitable types of tea regarding leaf size and taste from the available imports.

Teas from Sri Lanka, north and south India, and China are most suitable. The ideal tea already has a typical tea aroma. Also, it must have the ability to absorb the flavoring that is added, to bind it to the leaf and thus ensure good keeping properties.

The flavorer's main task can only be to create a composition which enhances the natural taste of black tea and provides variation of flavor - in other words, to impart a nuance of flavor to the tea, while at the same time preserving the basic character of that tea.

Another alternative to soft drinks are the ready-to- drink products, such as canned iced tea. These products are gaining larger market shares every year. Iced tea flavored with lemon or peach, for example, is a recent introduction in this field and enjoys great popularity not only in America, but also in many European countries, particularly in Switzerland and Italy.

My conviction is that there is still potential for increasing the popularity of flavored tea, owing to its great variety of flavors, its good keeping properties, and its modern image.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Janecki, Ralph
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1995
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