The art of blending
Written by William le 06 january 2012
A blend is a tea in which the leaves come from different places and/or harvest. It is very common, in the world of Pu-erh, to mix tea and create new tastes.
A blend can be undertaken from different perspectives, here are a few reasons why you would need to blend tea:
-Quantity: to satisfy large scale production requirements, hundreds of tons of mao cha can be required. Hence, it is impossible to collect all this tea in one single area and in the same harvest. The mao cha buyers need to get tea from several mountains or to use mao cha from different seasons and years.
-Quality: the tea factories employ tea blenders, they are people who understand tea very well and are able to mix the leaves in order to enhance the overall taste of a cake. Large scale productions most often use cheap material (plantation tea) for reasons of price and availability. By blending mao cha, they can give the product a complexity single-estate plantation tea couldn't have. Each tea mountain has its own taste profile, for example, Jingmai tea
gives aroma, Bulang tea gives aftertaste and Yiwu tea gives body to the liquor. In fact, each village features a different taste and being a tea blender requires a very good knowledge of the tea mountains, seasonal variations and also a kind of gift for finding the good associations of mao cha. Some old-growth tea can be added to the blend to get a better feeling and get a better quality. This practice is contested because it often implies a misleading appellation on the wrapper (it claims to be entirely ancient tree tea). Some producers argue that it is a waste of high quality material because it does not improve the taste that much and this material would do much better in unblended cakes.
Although blending is mostly used for producing decent tea with lower quality material, some tea masters like to blend Ancient tree tea and produce high-end blended cakes. Ancient tree tea often has a complexity that makes it enjoyable on its own, nonetheless,if they have a particularly strong characteristic (bitterness, feeling, fragrance...), they can fit very well in a blend. For example, Spring tea from Lao Man E's old trees is often so bitter that it goes hard even on the most seasoned Pu-erh aficionado. It is often blended, either with autumn tea or mao cha from other areas.
You can also try to blend tea at home, this is a very interesting experience. You can try to mix teas with close taste profile, or, on the opposite, totally different teas. Maybe you will find your true calling and become a famous tea blender!
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