Sunday, July 28, 2013

They Found a Flavor and They're Sticking to It

Consistency - that’s the key to success for many tea brands, especially those from large corporations like Lipton, Tetley, Twinnings, etc...   Their customers know that the flavor in yesterday’s box will be the flavor in today’s box.  But, just how is consistency possible?  How does tea from one batch taste like tea from another made months or years later?

The taste of all produce, even tea, changes depending on the season, the growing environment, and production techniques.   For example, grape vines are well known to be sensitive plants and the differences in a wet or dry season affect the flavor of the grape and ultimately the wine.  Wine enthusiasts revel in the flavor variations in a winery’s wine, which are recorded as vintages and noted by year on the bottle labels.  The Camellia Sinensis – the tea plant – is also sensitive to its climate and environment.  For tea connoisseurs the variations can be delightful.  Large tea corporations, however, seek to avoid changes in their brand flavor despite the unavoidable taste changes from harvest to harvest.  Their recipe for consistency is the use of both tea blending and tea tasting experts.

I talked with representatives from Igara Tea Factory of Uganda, Africa’s 3rd largest tea producing country [1], who discussed with me some of the practices of the tea corporations they sell to.  Corporations make their brand flavor consistent by mixing multiple teas sourced from hundreds of plantations from all corners of the world.  One tea bag might contain upwards of 40 different teas from many different countries.  The result is that seasonal differences in one area of the world, or irregularities in production in one plantation, won’t affect the overall taste of the final product because the tea from one locale is only a small percentage of the whole.

Tea tasters are the next step towards consistency.  Trained tea tasters test the tea (what a tongue twister!) to maintain the brand’s consistent flavor and quality.  Here is a short interview with a Lipton tea taster explaining his work.
(Click on the photo link.)


  1. Hi Sara and Andrea,
    Your question about "How does tea from one batch taste like tea from another made months or years later?", made me wonder about how long is tea good? I recently found a box of assorted teas that must be near 9 years old. Is it still good to use?
    Thanks, Devlin

  2. Hi Devlin,

    Most teas have a relatively short shelf life in an unopened package. Green tea as little as 6 to 9 months and black tea closer to 2 years. The “life” I’m referring to is the vibrancy of the original flavor. Dry tea can stay on the shelf for quite a long time without going moldy or becoming unhealthy to use, but would taste bland or even a bit stale as more and more time goes by.



Thank you for your comment(s). We like hearing from you.

Sara and Andrea

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