In fact, the different flavors of tea do not lie solely in one category but divide into 3 subgroups: flavor, mouthfeel, and aroma. Flavor is often mistaken with aroma for instance when we describe a tea as tasting like a flower meadow or a fruit salad. Here are the details:
What makes the different flavors of tea
Tea as a beverage has its origin in Asia where the health benefits are celebrated as part of the culture. Tea is a rich source of several phytochemicals such as Catechins, Epicatechins, Gallic acid, Caffeine, and a dozen different antioxidants that are known to contribute towards optimal health. There are several varieties of tea available in the market today like Black tea, Green tea, Oolong tea, White tea, and even probiotic tea like Kombucha, each having different levels of bio-actives and distinct flavor profiles.
All tea types come from the same plant — Camellia Sinensis. So what makes them so vastly different? The most significant difference between all the different types of tea lies in the levels of oxidation/fermentation that the tea leaves go through and the processing. In addition to this, there can be countless other variables on which the final taste will depend. For example the tea farm location, weather conditions, storage area, processing technique, and even our own brewing.
The 5 flavors of tea
Our tongues are able only to taste 5 flavors:
- Sweet – this is an essential flavor, especially when it comes to the aftertaste. Aftertaste means a distinctive taste formed by bitterness at the tip of the tongue and sweetness returned to the throat.
- Sour – sourness is not often something you would taste in a tea, although some teas do possess a pleasant citrusy tang.
- Salty – saltiness is something well sought in certain tea types,
- Bitter – tea shouldn’t be straight up bitter, however, some teas still have a distinctive and well-loved bitter taste
- Umami – the perfect balance of all the above flavors
Sometimes tea enthusiasts have a hard time distinguishing taste from the aroma. For example, a jasmine tea doesn’t necessarily taste floral, the floral aspect of it is tied to the aroma. On the other hand, it will taste very sweet and slightly grassy.
The 5 Mouthfeels of Tea
A mouthfeel cannot be bitter or sweet, but better so described as a physical feeling we get on our palate.
These sensations can be some of the following:
- Mouth-watering – one of the most desired sensations in teas. A mouth-watering sensation will genuinely have you craving for another sip.
- Astringent – not quite the same as bitter, although similar. It is a sensation felt throughout the palate which makes you cringe.
- Cooling – comparable to the feeling we get when drinking peppermint tea. The cooling sensation of certain green teas is sought after in hotter parts of China.
- Spicy – quite like chili, although somewhat rare in tea, it is present in Liu An Gua Pian Green Tea.
- Numbing – similar to the sensation we get after eating Szechuan pepper, also not as prevalent in tea.
The infinite aromas of tea
After taste and sensation, we finally have the aroma. Perhaps the first thing a person is attracted to when getting acquainted with tea. There are as many opinions of a tea’s aroma as there are people who drink tea in this world!
While certain types of teas have some generally accepted aroma profiles, the list can go on and on depending on the individual drinker’s interpretation of it. In fact, discovering an aroma is quite an interesting art form. Sometimes we don’t even realize what leads us down a maze of aroma discovery.
Some key notes on aroma:
- Vegetables: Green beans, corn, cucumber, spinach, mushroom, ginseng, ginger, yams, and sweet potatoes.
- Fruits: peach, apricots, plum, lychee, banana, pineapple, grape, date, fig, berries, citruses.
- Herbs and florals: mint, lavender, osmanthus, peony, honeysuckle, jasmine, sage.
- Grass: grass, hay, rice.
- Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, chili.
- Sweet: maple syrup, malt, brown sugar, caramel, honey.
- Desserts: chocolate, graham crackers, and oatmeal cookies.
- Others: nutty, smoky, tobacco, moss, dried leaves, fresh leaves, seaweed, the ocean.
The most popular tea flavors in the world
Darjeeling tea is by far one of the most popular tea flavors. It is a version of Black Tea, which is one of the most common teas used all around the world. Darjeeling, in particular, is much lighter in taste than other black teas, incorporating a nutty flavor and a less harsh aftertaste to alternative Black Teas.
In addition to Darjeeling, the following list shares 13 other most popular tea flavors as well.
- Darjeeling: Derivative of Black Tea with a light, nutty taste to it and a floral smell
- English Breakfast: Has a rich and hearty flavor and is often enjoyed with milk and sugar
- Matcha: Derivative of Green Tea, which is high in antioxidants and nutrients
- Chai: A milky, sugary, and spicy beverage originating from India
- Earl Grey: Made mostly with Black tea, Earl Grey has smoky, fragrant, and citrus tones
- Jasmine: Has a delicate aroma and a refreshing flavor
- Chamomile: Is known for its soothing properties with a floral flavoring
- Oolong: Falls between Green and Black Tea and is one of the top five true teas
- Yerba Mate: Includes high levels of caffeine and is often used as an alternative to coffee
- Rooibos: Light in flavor, this tea has health benefits for both the heart and liver
- Pu’er: Has earthy, mellow, and balanced undertones and has become popular over the last few years
- Lapsang Souchong: A black tea with a smoky aftertaste
- Mint: Tastes like mint leaves and helps to soothe upset stomachs
- Sencha: Most famous in Japan for its bitter taste
These teas are grown in famous regions in the world. However, they have different flavors due to the different tea cultures of each country. Each tea-growing region has different and characteristic tea flavors. Some famous tea brands in the world can be mentioned as The Republic of Tea (United States of America), Dilmah Tea (Sri Lanka), Harney & Sons (New York), etc…
Besides famous tea brands, Vietnam is also known as one of the famous tea-growing regions and exporting tea to many countries. Vietnamese green and black tea also have their own distinctive scents, favored by many people all over the world. Especially, our company – Vihaba is also proud to be one of the leading companies in exporting Vietnamese tea.