Teas are classified based on processing techniques, which can definitely affect the flavor of the tea. But another way to enhance the tea drinking experience is to flavor the tea. Normally, the flavoring is added to the tea at the end of the manufacturing process. Additional flavorings can be either artificial or natural. Flavorings can be purchased by the consumer and mixed with green or black teas.
Perhaps the most famous flavored tea is Earl Grey. It is flavored with the essential oils of bergamot, an orange like fruit found in the Mediterranean. The oils were originally added to black teas of dubious quality in order to disguise their flavors. However, this flavor enhancement proved so popular that it began to be applied to higher quality teas. Today, the quality of Earl Grey tea is largely dependent on the manufacturer.
Jasmine tea is very popular. This is a tea that is flavored by adding the odor and flavor of jasmine blossoms. The blossoms must be picked less than 24 hours before they are to open. They are piled in a mound where they begin to heat up. As they start to open, they are layered with processed tea. Before they can begin to oxidize, the layers are spread out to cool off. They are then stacked again so that they again heat up. When they reach 45° C the mounds again are spread and the jasmine blossoms are removed from the tea by hand. This labor intensive process makes jasmine tea expensive. The finest jasmine teas can go through this process eight or even ten times. Jasmine tea is said to have a sweet, delicate, and flowery taste and aroma.
Tea producers are very protective of the name "tea" and are not happy when products not made using the Camellia sinensis plant are called such. Nevertheless, in the west it is common to call almost any steeped concoction a tea, even brews never meant for consumption, such as compost tea. Ultimately, this naming is a nod to the popularity of tea itself. Though not officially "tea" all kinds of herbal teas are available and can even be made by the layman.
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