The art of tea blending is one that has always eluded me. I know of people that consider themselves experts in the field, but I often wondered how much skill it really took to create a blend. Playing with different herbs and teas wasn’t a new thing to me. I did it all the time at home to varying degrees of success and failure. The one I had yet to try to mimic was English Breakfast.
I read somewhere that there was no set recipe for English Breakfast. Typically, there was an Assam base, and other like-flavored burly black teas rounded it out. Sometimes they included low-altitude Ceylon or earthy Yunnan Dian Hong. But I found a snippet that mentioned a truly good blend was done with equal parts Assam and Keemun. Seemed easy enough.
At a par”tea” thrown by a friend of mine, I decided to demonstrate the ease of English Breakfast blending. I went up to the host and said, “Wanna see how easy blending is?”
He nodded slowly.
I took a helping of Keemun Gongfu and another of Rani estate Assam, put them in a bag together and shook it vigorously.
“There,” I said. “I just blended.”
My friend sniffed the contents of the bag. “That smells awful.”
I cocked an eyebrow, whiffed…and came up with little discernible aroma.
Perhaps I needed to rethink my approach. When I got home I looked through my stash of teas to see what would work for a second English try-out. I figured that both ingredients had to have a similar aromatic and visual profile. As luck would have it, I was in possession of a very tippy Keemun Mao Feng as well as some gold-tipped Assam from Glenburn’s Khongea estate. Both had a similar malty profile – albeit the Keemun was sweeter.
The results were…well…how about I just show you.
Now that I’ve been (understandably) exiled to my room, I can reflect upon it. The liquor brewed as I expected it would, very crimson-to-copper. The aroma had the subtlety of a bitter battering ram – very dry on the nostrils followed by something bordering on malt. To the taste, it was extremely tannic on the forefront but eventually settled nicely into a malty echo.
Verdict: If I’m in a pinch, it’s good to know I can shake up something drinkable. As to the art of blending itself…I’ll leave that to the professionals. The ingredients I used were of exceptional quality on their own, but I had little regard for how to portion them correctly. Clearly, I have a lot to learn.
Credits and Acknowledgements
Directed and Edited by:
Robert Norman (my brother). Without his help, I wouldn’t have been able to put together this little “tutorial” video. Sometimes living with a film grad is useful.
You can find more stuff by him HERE.
Our other collabs can be found HERE.
“Written” and “Starring”:
Me, of course. Honestly, other than coming up with the idea for this, writing a one-page script, and doing copious amounts of begging, my contributions were minor by comparison.
Special Guest Star:
Thanks to Robert “The Devotea” Godden for lending me his blender disapproval.
You can find his tea videos HERE.
You can find his blog HERE.
You can purchase his blends HERE.
06-June Khongea Golden Tips Second Flush Assam TGFOP1 provided by KTeas.
My thoughts on it – by itself – can be found HERE.
Gift Keemun Hong Mao Feng provided by Vicony Teas
My thoughts HERE.
“Pot Head” shirt purchased at The Jasmine Pearl Tea Merchants
Abacus St. Bernard
Funny. I like Abacus and Georgia!
Who doesn’t? They’re so hairy and lovable (and annoying).
bravo both of you!
Thank you, Jo!
Rachana (Rachel) Carter
Absolutely awesome and brave. Two thumbs up from me.
Brave? Because I put myself on camera or because I tried blending?
I think ‘brave” refers to the pyjama pants.
That could be. They’re holiday pajama pants…and they’re now outta season. I don’t care, I like ’em.
Can’t be about the PJs. “No” pj’s would’ve been brave @thedevotea – We’ll still have to wonder what @iheartteas meant. I suspect she means “brave” for taping your blending efforts Geoff, when you well know they’re going land you “in your room.” You poor man. That Robert. I hope he’s let you out now. Seems like you have internet access at least.
It was only a brief exile. I think I got permission to see daylight the next day.
Rachana (Rachel) Carter
Nothing so wild as pants or anything. I was saying you were brave to try your hand at blending teas. Hope there is more to come. 🙂
I’ll certainly record any other blending “wiles” here.
No links to Abacus and Georgia’s blogs? Probably snuck off to “Pet Trade” to do their blogging there.
Anyway, love this post. Thing is though, you leave us wanting more. Not just one awesome video teaser, but a series of them. Well, you’ll just have to keep buying that brother of yours more drinks. Or take him to the movies. Maybe he’ll collaborate some more.
As to your blend, I think you’ve used finer tea than many who blend up an English. I’m thinking of the stuff used in generic “English Breakfast” tea bags.
And finally @thedevotea was a nice touch. As usual he has to have the last word. Can’t keep those Aussies quiet can we?
Geoff – once again – brilliant post!
Ha, they don’t keep blogs. Er…last I checked.
As to doing more…er…this one took two months to put together and get our schedules aligned. When we could finally hammer it out, it didn’t take that long.
Makes me wish I knew a thing or two about film.
Loved it…very funny stuff.
I’ve heard rumblings of the two of you up to something. Nice to finally see the finished product.
And despite the critic’s panning, I’d like to try that blend.
Thanks for watchin’ and enjoyin’.
Yes, this is what we’d been rumbling about.
As to the blend, I’m fresh out. Ran out last night as a matter of fact. Oddly enough, it was better than I remembered it. Must’ve been the disposable coffee cup I was using.
It was great to be part of this, although @lahikmajoe‘s assertion that we were “up to something” suggests a far greater involvement from me than is really the case.
I was simply given a two-word script, which I failed to stick to.
I think the video is fantastic, and I think that went the time comes for us all to shoot “Tea Trade- The Movie” then we should give Robert Norman a call.
You’re involvement was still greatly appreciated. Heck, my involvement was just coming up with the idea and saying “I want THAT music in the background”…followed by the blog to sandwich the thing.
And, yes, my brother has a filmic calling. “Tea Trade: The Movie”…I like that.
Nice. I like this blending mystery post and your look at the end that says “why not? Let’s drink it”.
Believe it or not, that wasn’t a reenactment. I was drinking what I shook for the shoot.
Excellent! Great work, you guys — and that was some nice camera work, seriously!
I love it. (You should have waited 20 years and auctioned off the blend, though. :))
20-year-aged English Breakfast? That would’ve been something.