The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power


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The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby legend » Nov 3rd, '10, 15:36

Always notice not only the number of infusions, as has been expertly expressed in certain posts in the relevant previous thread, but also the character of those infusions will tell you a good deal about the leaves. I have the feeling that more and more teas are being produced- or rather formulated to have more powerful flavours, like processed foods *soft drinks* often do.
Tea flavor is different of course, it should come strictly on the basis that it is nutritional. That is why the ancient Chinese cultivated the tea plant and gave us this beautiful tradition. Tea flavor comes from three influences:
1. Place - flavor comes from the plant, it's enironment and habitat.
2. People - including the knowledge, skill, and art of tea making.
3. Production - the methods and processes used by the tea makers.
The original tea terroirs, tea people, and tea methods will be increasingly more difficult to find over time. We must support enterprises which produce tea closest to the original sources of all three of the above influences.

So there are two important questions about the nature of the flavor of tea:
How can it be enhanced beyond its own natural state?
1. Overuse of chemical fertilizers that change the natural properties of the plant.
2. By steaming or applying by water vapor the flavour of another plant or flower onto the tea, as is common in the "scented" teas made for export.
Obviously 1. is worse than 2. but together they make up a big part of the tea market. The best defense is to find organic and/or authentic/ native habitat tea sources

Why are teas being formulated in this way?
1. The market is to large and the supply of authentic, more naturally grown and produced tea leaves is very small.
2. The styles (or lack of style) that was and is still common in the west is to brew the leaves too hot and for too long so any natural flavors/ nutrients would break down anyway.

So what does this have to do with the character or number of infusions of your tea?
Chemical fertilizers and flavor enhancers are water soluable so they will be absorbed into the plant.
ANY tea should be brewed scientifically, in the proper *small* vessel, and throughout your brews you should notice how the flavours present themselves over the course of the process. If any flavours quickly wash out after only a few brews than well...obviously there are chemicals in your tea.

So if tea is formulated than used in the wrong way, business will increase profits by decreasing and eliminating tea's nutritional properties; we don't want to support this. Unfortunately this problem is so much a part of the current market that I would guess 60-70% of the tea produced is being tainted and perverted in this way. What we can do is to spend our money wisely on organic and native habitat growing initiatives and enterprises.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby tortoise » Nov 3rd, '10, 17:11

I agree with this and would apply the same thinking to virtually any industry in business today.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby exquisite » Nov 4th, '10, 05:40

(real) tea was never a commodity. At least not in the west. And I think it will never be. And that is not necessarily bad. The other tea(s) is just marketing.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby nickE » Nov 4th, '10, 12:25

exquisite wrote:(real) tea was never a commodity. At least not in the west. And I think it will never be. And that is not necessarily bad. The other tea(s) is just marketing.

I agree, a commodity is an undifferentiated product while the tea we drink is more of a specialty item.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby Chubseus » Nov 4th, '10, 13:13

I’m a bit confused on your argument on over-use of chemical fertilizers. On the one hand, you say they’re being used to create more powerful flavors, but you also say they make the flavors weaker and washed out after steeping. It seems contradictory.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby legend » Nov 4th, '10, 14:17

Chubseus wrote:I’m a bit confused on your argument on over-use of chemical fertilizers. On the one hand, you say they’re being used to create more powerful flavors, but you also say they make the flavors weaker and washed out after steeping. It seems contradictory.


Actually it is exactly the way that teas have been "formulated" for lack of a better word for many years- although its actually the fact that nature has in some cases, been pushed beyond to its limits and capacaties. In the west most people have always brewed tea by using a large vessel and brewing the (leaf pieces) to their end all at once. Until I came to China I had never in my life seen tea that was brewed more than once, think about that and what I am saying will start to make sense. Flavours that are not geniune in nature come powerfully and go quickly this is exactly what you will observe because these fertilizers and flavourants are water soluable.The relationship between quality and quantity, and that of profits and sustainability are inherent to any industry but none more important than what we put in our bodies.

I have been living in Guangxi which is basically a part of the same geographical habitat as Yunnan, in both of these places you can observe that the original terroirs of the native tea plants cannot support the world's demand for tea production. This has been the case for many years. Over the course of the modern era, tea has become in many(most) cases, something increasingly different than its intended form. Areas are cultivated so often the soil doesnt retain its nutrients so they have to be added in chemically every growing season; add to this the fact that most of the world tea market is made of tea that was grown in other regions and produced in a similar way and then sold as the original. These problems are not native to these regions or to tea alone, the same factors effect all our natural resources especially food. I have seen countryside farms and massive state funded operations here in China, they along with every other farming operation in the world must deal with these situations. So the same thinking holds true for all food farming and production - support the local or native farmers and producers, support organic and sustainable initiatives, support fair trade intiatives, and try to inform people to not waste money on foods or tea that are adulterated and posses no nutrition.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby exquisite » Nov 4th, '10, 14:53

nickE wrote:
exquisite wrote:(real) tea was never a commodity. At least not in the west. And I think it will never be. And that is not necessarily bad. The other tea(s) is just marketing.

I agree, a commodity is an undifferentiated product while the tea we drink is more of a specialty item.


I am afraid that even the loose tea business is mainly a business...in the western style. No real tradition behind it, so as along as the customers can be happy, anything goes. My previous words were not referring to lipton or twinings. :(

I mean it´s not bad that people are interested in loose leaf and brewing traditionally. It is not bad that money can be moved around. But it is not part of our culture, and we imported only what we think we understand.
Very similar to wine culture, even though this should´t have happened. You will see "Idontknowwhateverfamousfrenchname" printed on many bottles. That doesn´t mean that the respective little village in France can really output all the huge amount of the liquid praised to be fabulous by a restaurant or wine shop. As simple as that. It´s ok to like and appreciate good wine, as long as you don´t fool yourself that it´s handprocessed by someone older than your grandpa´s grandpa.
Tea holds many things behind. One can discover it to be a key to a door
which gives access to some ways of understanding of the Orient he(she) never suspected to be so rich and deep... but that happens rarely. After all we only see what we are prepared to see. (don´t know who said that but is famous).
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby Chubseus » Nov 4th, '10, 16:15

legend wrote:. Flavours that are not geniune in nature come powerfully and go quickly this is exactly what you will observe because these fertilizers and flavourants are water soluable.


OK this is what’s losing me, because fertilizer is not a flavor. Let’s put aside the addition of flavorings and focus on fertilizer for a moment. I admit to not knowing much about tea plant culture, but in my relatively decent vegetable and orchard experience, over-fertilized plants are bland and watery, like a crummy store-bought tomato or apple. I’ve experienced this with organic fertilizers as well, if taken to excess. I’ve never experienced anything in plants that I’d call heavy, fleeting flavors due to chemical fertilization. The more commonly accepted advantage of organic fertilizers is that they add more micro nutrients to the soil that chemical fertilizers miss (things other than nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Thus, I could see chemically fertilized tea having less complexity, or being weaker overall in strength, but I don’t understand how they could have the flash-bang effect you’re describing.

I don’t think the water soluble argument is very valid either. Every nutrient that a plant takes up, including organic ones, is water soluble. That’s how roots work. Every flavor I taste in tea is also water soluble. If not, how do I taste them?

My last point of contention is more philosophical. Haven’t we, in the west, been driven by marketing towards weaker flavors? Like grain fed versus grass fed meat animals, coffee that’s more cream and sugar than coffee, or processed foods that taste like fatty cardboard?

I’m not totally disagreeing with you. I agree that fertilizers are over-used, both organic and chemically, I just think you’re using some odd logic to prove a valid point.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby Chip » Nov 4th, '10, 17:39

I agree, let's stick to one issue or the other. Lumping flavored teas with chemical fertilizing ... these are simply two completely different issues, subjects, topics.

I think there needs to be tolerance in so many aspects of tea culture ... including cultivation. If someone prefers organic, that is great. If someone prefers "conventionally grown" that should be great as well. Fact is, the overwhelming percentage of many types of teas are conventionally grown.

Organic is not "better" simply due to its moniker. (not even going to get into the corruption of the name for the sake of profit at the expense of joe consumer)

I would like to see believable studies showing the chemical fertilizers coming out in the tea liquor because they are water soluble?

I also question the notion that a so called chemically fertilized tea fades faster, fewer steeps, than its organic counterpart. I find in the case of many teas that the opposite is true. Side by side, a conventionally grown versus organically grown sencha for instance ... the conventionally grown lasts many more infusions than the organic counterpart. Also, often more leaf by weight is required of organic versus conventional.

I am just not ready to throw one way or the other under the bus. I would instead preach tolerance in all tea drinkers of their tea drinking brethren.

Clearly there is abuse in the conventionally and organically grown teas ... responsible growing practices on either side of the fence is often virtually impossible to enforce.
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Re: The Adultery of Tea and Flavour Power

Postby legend » Nov 4th, '10, 22:50

I agree with the other opinions expressed in fact my intention was never to argue for organic growning over conventional growing at all. Conventional growing is fine in most cases. Obviously I am focusing more on the effect of flavourants being used to enhance the plants chemically, rather than the simple chemical fertilizers which are in many places necessary to grow healty crops. In fact I have no intention of making any kind of argument, I just want people to observe their tea closely, which is obviously something many people who would frequent this board would already do.My only concern is that tea be kept as close to the original healthy/nutrtious form that it was always intended to be. There are a number of ways we can support this ideal, as I mentioned in my post. I am not an organic fanatic I am just a student of tea, and everything I learned about tea I learned while here in China, where I have been able to see the situations that effect the production sources.

The only thing I want to argue for is the production of the best tea possible, consumers make the market, so of course any tea enthusiast is already on the search for the best teas. Therefor the more people who learn about tea the better.
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