Tea is very susceptible to absorbing the flavour and aroma of any substance it comes into contact with. This is why it is important to store tea correctly. Although it would be unusual to alter the natural flavour profile of premium quality white, green, oolong, black or dark tea, in theory any type of tea can be scented or flavoured. In this article we explain the difference between scented and flavoured tea.
What is scented tea?
Scented tea is tea that has been exposed to or mixed with real flowers, herbs or fruits. The scenting is done either by a tea producer at the place of origin, a tea wholesaler or a tea retailer such as ourselves. If the scenting is done by the producer, as is the case with our Organic Jasmine Silver Needle, the tea leaves are exposed to the fragrant fresh flowers for several days until they take on the scent and taste of jasmine. The finished tea contains no trace of the flowers, leaving only pure, fragrant tea leaves. It is easy to tell a naturally scented leaf by smelling the dry leaves. Customers visiting our shop in Stuttgart can make a direct sensory comparison between our Jasmine Silver Needle and our unscented Silver Needle.
Another way to naturally flavour tea is to simply add fruit, spices or herbs to a finished tea or tea blend. This is how our natural herbal infusions are made and how we transform our organic Ti Guan Yin into Rose Oolong.
A tea that has been scented naturally will often be more delicate than flavoured tea.
What is flavoured tea?
Flavoured teas are teas that have been flavoured with natural or artificial flavours. One of the best known flavoured teas is Earl Grey: a tea that has been blended with bergamot oil.
The process of adding a natural extract, such as bergamot oil, a nature-identical flavour or an artificial flavour to tea is very different from the traditional process of scenting tea. The process is mechanical, using a rotating machine to ensure the tea leaves are evenly coated with the flavouring. In the case of flavoured teas, it is important to use a machine to ensure that the flavour is evenly distributed over the tea leaves.
A good example of the difference between a flavoured tea and a tea with a clearly identifiable natural flavour is Milky Oolong. This is a tea that has been flavoured to copy the creamy, buttery taste of the original Milky Oolong (Jin Xuan) from Taiwan. Whereas the original unflavoured tea has a subtle milk and buttery flavour, the flavoured tea has a stronger, almost condensed milk flavour. We explain more about the differences between these two teas in our magazine article “What is Milk Oolong / Milk Oolong?
Smoked, roasted and aged teas
Another way to change the flavour of tea is to roast, smoke or age tea leaves. This is not the same as scenting or flavouring a tea, but it does change the flavour of the tea.
Lapsang Souchong is a good example of a tea that has been smoked. As the final step in the production process, the tea leaves are placed in bamboo baskets and dried over a pine-needle fire. This gives the tea its famous smoky pinewood flavour. Houjicha, a Japanese green tea, is roasted to create a nutty, toasty flavour. Aging teas, such as white or dark tea, has a profound effect on the aroma and flavour.