Choosing tea is ultimately a matter of personal preference, usually based on taste. Therefore, its understandable that people pick disparate flavor options when selecting a tea.
Some insist on flavored tea while others go for unflavored tea. The truth of the matter, though, is that all true tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Difference in tastes and flavors come about as a result of the tea leaves’ picking time as well as the drying and oxidation process, thus creating initially the unflavored black, white, or green teas. Afterwards comes the flavoring and blending process, resulting in naturally- or artificially-flavored, or herb-blended teas.
So, what are the fundamental differences between flavored and unflavored teas?
This type of tea has no flavors, herbs, or other substances added that may distract from the natural taste inherent in the processed tea leaves. It is completely free of artificial, natural, or any other flavors.
Still, with so many varieties of tea, including white, green, pu-erh, etc, the diverse growing regions and climate conditions, and specialized processing methods, every unflavored tea can yield its own unique taste. This naturally-occurring flavor is equally savored by many, and a number of tea lovers insist on only drinking unflavored tea.
Tea is referred to as ‘flavored’ if it has supplementary taste and/or aromas added to it. Flavoring is done to satisfy diverse tastes and provide enticing aromas. These added flavorings may be from natural plants, other substances (such as oils), or synthetic sources. Flavored teas are further divided into 3 categories i.e. naturally flavored, artificially flavored and herbal flavored.
- Naturally Flavored Tea – This is tea whose aroma and tastes has been enhanced using naturally-occurring or plant substances without any artificial additives. Examples are essential oils, aromatic substances and more. Such a tea would be Jasmine Green (when its naturally flavored using the jasmine flower).
- Artificially Flavored Tea – This is tea that uses flavors that have been synthetically manufactured from chemicals, to end up producing some popular tastes and aroma. The flavors are then applied on the tea for consumption adding an aromatic or complex flavor experience. An example would be commercial tea containing artificial flavors, as indicated on the packaging.
- Herbal Flavored Tea – The flavors are derived from natural plants like roots, flowers, fruits, or plant barks that have pleasant aromas and flavors. These are then added to tea leaves to produce the resulting herbal flavored tea, sometimes referred to as herbal tea. While the primary purpose is usually to add a sweeter or more complex flavor and aroma to the tea, oftentimes the herbs are used to add medicinal value to the tea. An example would be Belight Tea.
Earl Grey may fall into either category 1 or 2, or both, depending whether its Bergamot oil is naturally or artificially derived. Oftentimes tea may fall into multiple of the above categories as it may be both naturally and artificially flavored, as well as have fruits or flowers visible in it; many of Teavana’s teas span multiple categories like this.
The ingestion of tea that has been naturally or herbal flavored is generally preferred, and considered safer than the artificially flavored ones. Likewise herbal flavored tea typically offers a smoother, more authentic taste experience than either naturally or artificially flavored.
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