Tea blends and flavored teas (see what the difference is) are available by the hundreds. Some have been around for centuries and are considered classics while others are thought up in the tea vendor’s kitchen (either residential or commercial). Both of these are considered “store bought.” Inventive tea drinkers add to this array with their own creations done at home for their own consumption and to share with some lucky friends. This is considered “homemade.” With all these choices it can be hard to tell which is better. Or is that even a question that should be asked?

My attempt awhile back at a homemade tea blend. Not too bad, but… (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

My attempt awhile back at a homemade tea blend. Not too bad, but… (Photo source: A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

So often the answer to “Which is better?” is totally a matter of personal taste. For a lot of tea blends and flavored teas, though, the answer is very often: store bought. Whether you buy from a large vendor with stores popping up everywhere like those dandelions in your pristine lawn or from that small online specialty vendor who mixes up small batches of their own proprietary blends and flavoreds, you are getting something where the various flavors have been scrutinized and paired up for a particular effect.

For some of the classic teas such as Jasmines, “store bought” is always best, since the process is one that is difficult to duplicate in one’s kitchen. Spreading the fresh leaves out, layering them with jasmine petals, and then removing the petals is a job done best by experts. Earl Grey is another classic that takes that certain touch. Anyone can get oil of bergamot, but knowing what to do with it to get just the right flavor is another matter. English Breakfast Tea is a blend of various black teas in just the right proportions to get that distinct flavor.

As for new flavors involving various fruits and flowers, some flavors go together better than others, and some will clash in the extreme. A tea that has a basically floral character could go with some nutty or even fruit flavors, but not necessarily with other floral flavors. A tea with a more raisiny or stone fruit (peach, apricot, cherry) character is good with nuts, vanilla, and other flavors.

Just as with cooking where you need to know when to use sugar, when you can sub another liquid such as orange juice for water, how rice flour reacts versus wheat flour, and so on, you need to keep these things in mind for blending and flavoring teas. Now, all you folks who can whip up a gourmet meal from a can of sardines, a jar of dill pickles, and some over-ripe bananas are surely going to know how to blend teas and mix in flavorings to get a taste-pleasing result. But the rest of us who can screw up a scone mix that we dump in a bowl and add water to need to stay away from the very idea of trying to blend and flavor teas.

Of course, some of us prefer burnt or flat scones to the perfect ones from the local bakery. So there will be those who prefer their own “experiments” with blending and flavoring teas over what they get online or from the tea shop in town. So which is better? That’s easy: the one you want.

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