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Dec 28th, '15, 05:31
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Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by john.b » Dec 28th, '15, 05:31

I usually only drink plain, single source teas, what this site is mostly about, but for whatever reasons I've been branching out a bit lately. Given that, I went ahead and tried to make a Christmas blend, based on seeing others mentioned. Oddly enough the idea of making eggnog sort of also triggered it.

To cut all that rambling short, here is the general recipe I went with, not meant as some sort of optimum, just what I made:

black tea: wouldn't matter so much, Ceylon or whatever would do, but less astringent would work better if the idea isn't to go towards a milk and sugar blend. I mixed Vietnamese and Indonesian teas I had on hand.

fruit: only orange peel is essential to most versions, but while I was oven-drying that I mixed in dark cherry and nectarine we had on hand, in the case of the latter the peel and some thin slices (dried). apple would be another obvious possibility. one version I read of mentioned pear, and other berries could make sense.

spice: clove and cinnamon are the main ones mentioned, but I also added vanilla (the pod), nutmeg, and a dash of salt. one recipe I ran across mentioned pepper, back to a standard in masala chai.


I made the tea like a masala chai, using both the boiling process and adding milk and sugar. The tea would work just fine steeped, and drank plain, without those, I just tried it first the other way since it's easier, and I'll experiment with other versions with the rest of the fruit.

I'm wondering how fruit blends in general really infuse the fruit anywhere near as fast as the tea since a five minute boiling point steep is an awful lot of brewing for a black tea, but for a thin piece of dried fruit it would just start soaking it. But I don't know enough about them to get that, and I'll be no expert based on this short stint at experimenting.

That's pretty much the basics, but I'll add the related blog post here with more pictures and some links about other references:

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.co ... blend.html

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Dec 1st, '16, 22:01
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by john.b » Dec 1st, '16, 22:01

Back to this idea again! I normally drink plain teas; I've reviewed a white tea from Nepal and a black tea from Yunnan in the past week, and I was on Dan Cong last week, but it's nice to mix it up.

This year I wanted to try adding a chocolate element, preferably without adding real chocolate, since that isn't really an infusion and gives tea a strange texture. I had been reading about those David's tea type blends once and threw a Hershey's Kiss into a tea to check that, and the taste sort of worked but the texture didn't.

Cocoa / cacoa nibs seems the obvious solution, a part of the cocoa bean that is used as a tisane. Sourcing that is harder in Bangkok because we're way behind here in terms of health food stores--it's hard to find basics like flax seed oil and spirulina, or even protein powder--but I turned it up.

The recipe theme was chocolate covered cherry tea, from the holiday oriented version. I made a fruit based version last year using dried dark cherry but it's hard to get dried fruit to infuse. It's possible to just use a longer boil and pre-infusion step for spices and fruit and cook the taste out but I tried an unconventional approach instead, using preserves / jam. I saw a mention of doing this for an iced tea in an online video (one of the China Life series), and it sounded a bit strange, but this seemed the time to try it out. Vanilla bean rounded out the ingredient list.

It worked. Of course a tea blend is a completely different thing than a plain tea, so you have to be willing to go there in the first place. For me masala chai was a gateway into accepting tea blends, and I've tried Thai teas since, that orange version, commercial products and making it. I don't drink blended teas more than a half dozen times a year but it's nice for a change. The details of making it and a little more on tasting follow in the post, but there's not so much to it beyond this summary. Nothing interesting related to using preserves came up; it didn't throw off texture, and the taste integrated well enough.

http://teaintheancientworld.blogspot.c ... herry.html

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Dec 2nd, '16, 04:46
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by entropyembrace » Dec 2nd, '16, 04:46

What the commercial fruit tea blends do to get around that problem is they add "natural flavour" that can mean different things but I think usually it's essential oils. If you wanted to do things that way yourself you could try buying some essential oils to scent the teas with. You don't want to drop the essential oil directly on the tea, probably vaporizing a very small quantity under the tea would work? They're very potent I've accidentally infused dark chocolate with mint and clove by using vapourized oils in the same room to get some relief from flu symptoms last year...

Since the oil is a concentrated, volatile extract it infuses rapidly into hot water and is the real contributor to the flavour and aroma in commercial blends. The bits of fruit are just decoration since as you've seen they infuse even slower than the tea leaves do.

Dec 2nd, '16, 09:48
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by ethan » Dec 2nd, '16, 09:48

entropyembrace, did the vapor from essential oils help w/ flu symptons.

John, If you do use these oils, keep an eye on your children. As you have been well-advised, they are highly concentrated so not something you want sipped or spilled onto one's face etc.

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Dec 2nd, '16, 10:22
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by kuánglóng » Dec 2nd, '16, 10:22

You could always place a tissue with a few drops of essential oils and a dry tissue underneath on top of the tea in your canister or caddy - dry tea leaves will readily absorb the aroma in a few days. Back in the day I've done my own Earl Grey that way and prefer this method to spraying the tea with an atomizer.

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Dec 2nd, '16, 15:33
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by entropyembrace » Dec 2nd, '16, 15:33

ethan wrote:entropyembrace, did the vapor from essential oils help w/ flu symptons.
They're very good for getting some temporary relief from congestion and easing irritation from the cough. :)

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Dec 3rd, '16, 00:17
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by john.b » Dec 3rd, '16, 00:17

I wouldn't say I'll never go there but in general I don't want to have anything to do with the use of essential oils in making tea blends. I don't drink much in the way of any kinds of blends anyway, it's only something I experiment with to draw cooking and drinking tea together.

As I'd mentioned in that post if there is a problem with tea (real tea) and spices or fruit infusing at much different rates I would address that by infusing the other ingredients first then adding the tea at the end. Of course this only works in the context of making tea for myself; commercial blends really do need to be made to work out when dropped into hot water for a few minutes. How they might solve the dried fruit infusion problem is an interesting question.

It raises the issue: how would I make Earl Grey? I guess I wouldn't. It's not difficult to prepare orange peel for use for infusion but if the ingredient is a type of orange I don't have access to in a fresh version then I'd just not use it. I don't have anything against essential oils, I'm not really afraid of them or opposed to them on some other grounds, it just doesn't match my interests. A vendor sent a coconut essential oil flavored black tea sample once that was really nice, and I appreciated that, but I'd be unlikely to buy it.

Dec 3rd, '16, 02:50
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by ethan » Dec 3rd, '16, 02:50

When a jar of preserves or marmalade is empty except for what clings to the bottom & sides, I put a teabag or two in it & add boiling water. After a few minutes, I remove the bag(s) & add milk. My grandparents sometimes did not wait for a jar to empty but just added a teaspoon of fruit preserves or marmalade to a glass of hot tea (they did not use mugs or cups for tea).

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Dec 3rd, '16, 09:29
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Re: Christmas blend (black tea with clove, etc.)

by Psyck » Dec 3rd, '16, 09:29

When I infuse fruits, berries, flowers, herbs, etc with tea, I place the tea in an enclosed mesh/strainer within a larger container and add all the blends and hot water into the larger vessel. That way, I can remove just the tea leaves after a few minutes and let the rest soak for longer.

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