Yellow tea is an extremely rare type of tea with unique processing and a subtle flavor. It is grown and processed on a lake island in China. After harvest, it is slightly fermented (not oxidized, which is unusual) under straw, then rolled into “needles” and dried. The flavor is typically fruity with hints of cocoa, vanilla and flowers.
(also spelled “puer” or “pu’er”) is a rare type of tea that is both oxidized and fermented. It is noted for its deep, earthy, espresso-like flavor. Pu-erh is traditionally consumed after heavy meals and is purported to aid in digestion and cholesterol reduction.
Pu-erh goes through several stages of processing. The first is similar to green tea processing and results in a product called “sheng cha.” Sheng cha can then be processed in one of two ways to make pu-erh, both of which involve fermentation akin to the fermentation in wine production. It can be produced quickly (or “ripened”) with the addition of heat and moisture, or it can be produced in a traditional fashion, in which moderate moisture levels and the passage of time fuel fermentation. Aging pu-erh is more expensive, but (when done well) it yields a more complex, smooth, enjoyable tea.
Poor-quality pu-erhs typically taste muddy or moldy. Good quality pu-erhs usually taste smooth, intensely dark and slightly sweet, and may have notes of dark chocolate, espresso, plum, moss, wood, rich soil, mushrooms or nuts. Some compare it to an old growth forest. Pu-erhs that need more aging may taste sharp or bitter.
Scented / Aromatized / Flavored Teas
Long associated with afternoon tea
and other Western traditions, Earl Grey
is the best-known flavored tea in the United States. However, scented and flavored teas have been made in China long before they ever reached the West. Jasmine-scented green tea, osmanthus oolong and rose black tea were crafted as long ago as the Tang Dynasty
. Unlike pure teas, in which the aroma and flavor depend on the terroir, varietal and processing, scented and aromatized teas get the majority of their flavor from added scents and flavors.
Flavors may be added synthetically or naturally. Synthetic flavoring involves tiny amounts of “nature-identical,” natural or artificial flavor being blended with tealeaves
. Natural flavoring involves placing a non-dried flavor ingredient (such as fresh jasmine flowers) next to dry tealeaves. Tea is hydrophilic (“water-loving”), so it absorbs the moisture and aroma/flavor of the jasmine flowers. After fresh jasmine flowers have been placed alongside the tea many times, the tea takes on the aroma of the flowers.
The range of aromas and flavors available from scented and flavored teas is astounding. French tea flavorists are particularly known for their experimentation with unusual flavors, such as seaweed, but most flavored teas are made with fairly pedestrian flavors, such as sweet spices and fruits. Although flavored teas get much fo their flavor from the added ingredients, it is important to note that the quality of the tea itself can have a substantial impact on the flavor, too.
Like scented/flavored teas, blended teas are teas with added flavors. However, blended teas contain actual pieces of added ingredients. These may be fruit, flowers, spices or other ingredients. Blended teas are often also flavored. Sometimes, when teas are flavored and blended, the blending is intended more for visual appeal than actual flavor.
More on Flavor Profiles
If the flavor notes above tantalized your tastebuds, be sure to read this article on Tea Flavor Profiles