Have you ever wondered what makes tea taste so good? The simple answer is the various elements that come together to create an irresistible aroma that helps soothe the soul and relax the mind. When it comes to tea, there are three main flavour characteristics: bitterness, sweetness, and umami.
Regardless of personal preference, there are many different varieties of tea, each of which bring unique experiences. So much so that the extent of tea diversity makes fit-for-all concepts completely irrelevant. In this article, we will explain the taste of different tea types and the aromas that follow. If you are interested in the taste of tea, let us read on!
Do you know the caffeine in tea?
Does Caffeine Determine the Taste and Flavor of Tea?
The taste of tea depends on various factors, from tea varieties and production processes to the freshness of tea leaves and the brewing method. The flavor of tea is influenced by factors such as production techniques and the freshness of tea leaves, with the final taste depending on the brewing method.
Sun exposure, for example, can alter the taste of tea, and exposing tea leaves to air can capture different aromas, resulting in unique flavors. Even the water quality used for brewing tea can impact its taste. Each type of tea has its own distinct flavor, making it crucial to understand personal preferences when choosing the best tea.
The primary taste components in tea come from different elements. Bitterness comes from caffeine and catechins, while astringency comes from flavonols and theaflavins. Green tea contains catechins, and black tea contains theaflavins, which may explain why you may experience a drier sensation rather than bitterness in many black teas.
Sweetness and umami come from amino acids, such as L-theanine responsible for freshness and alanine responsible for sweetness. Loose-leaf teas often have more complex flavors than tea bags.
In addition to their natural taste, teas can have added aromas. Some teas are produced with additional flavors to either mask or enhance the original taste of the tea leaves. Earl Grey tea, for example, is one of the most popular flavored teas. It uses black tea as a base and incorporates spicy and citrusy bergamot flavor, transforming it into a beloved tea.
Another popular flavored tea is jasmine green tea, known for its delicate jasmine aroma. It combines green tea as a base with a slightly smoky flavor and a rich profile. In flavored teas, the base tea’s taste is often less pronounced compared to the added aroma or flavoring elements.
⚑ Further Reading ⚑
[Six Major Tea Categories] Chinese Tea Culture – Origin of World Tea
The dance of tea leaves in hot water is a poetry of flavors, a symphony that unfolds with each steeping. Let the aroma of tea be a voyage, and each sip a brushstroke painting a canvas of serenity and indulgence.
What Is Tea?
Chemical Components in Tea Leaves
As mentioned earlier, tea plants contain various chemical compounds due to elements or manufacturing processes, and the primary chemical substance affecting the taste and aroma of tea is polyphenols, with flavonoids being the most significant.
Polyphenols make up about 30% of tea tree leaves. Other chemical substances related to the flavor of tea include caffeine and amino acids.
The chemical composition varies for each type of tea. This is because fresh tea leaves undergo different chemical changes during processing, primarily caused by oxidation.
Changes in processing steps affect the degree of oxidation, resulting in chemical differences in each type of tea. The chemical composition of tea leaves may also be influenced by environmental factors, harvest time, tea leaf variety, cultivation methods, and pests.
Oxidation Alters the Chemical Composition of Tea Leaves
As long as tea leaves remain on the live plant, polyphenols in the leaves remain stable. Once the leaves are plucked, the oxidation process naturally begins (similar to how an apple starts to brown once cut). This oxidation reaction is initiated by the release of polyphenol oxidase in the leaves.
Oxidation transforms polyphenols into new compounds, mainly theaflavins and thearubigins. Heating during processing stops the oxidation process and enzyme activity. By controlling the degree of oxidation, tea makers create the unique flavor and chemical composition of tea.
In terms of classification, green tea, white tea, and yellow tea undergo minimal oxidation as they are quickly heated after harvesting. Therefore, the polyphenol content in these types of tea leaves is similar to fresh leaves. The resulting tea liquor is pale yellow or yellow-green, with a mild and delicate flavor.
On the other hand, black tea leaves are typically rolled or crushed, disrupting cell structure and mixing all leaf juices (containing polyphenols) and enzymes together. This achieves complete oxidation, so black tea contains fewer polyphenols, as they primarily convert into theaflavins and thearubigins, imparting a unique reddish-brown color and a richer flavor.
Oolong tea falls into the category of semi-oxidized tea, between green tea and black tea. During processing, oolong tea undergoes a short period of oxidation before being heated. This preserves a higher polyphenol content compared to black tea. However, oolong tea tends to have a more complex flavor than white and green teas but is less intense than black tea.
Post-fermented teas require several months to several years of aging. During the aging process, slow oxidation and fermentation occur by controlling moisture and temperature.
This process changes the aroma of the tea, making the taste mellow. Post-fermented teas are usually compressed into shapes such as balls or bricks and are sold in that form. Compared to the more astringent black tea, this process alters the tea’s aroma and imparts a mellow flavor. Post-fermented teas are often sold in compressed shapes like balls or bricks.
Tea Flavor, a symphony for the senses, where each sip is a poetic journey through hills of aroma and valleys of delicate notes. Let the infusion of leaves paint a canvas of tranquility on your palate, and in every cup, find a story steeped in the essence of nature.
Tea Classroom – Tea Caffeine
Where does the aroma of tea come from?
When the tea releases aromatic compounds, the aroma is produced in the nose during inhalation. As this happens, the brain will categorise the main smells, and the smell object produced based on your past experience.
For example, a Japanese might associate the smell of coumarin in Sencha with the aroma of Sakura Mochi; while an American might smell vanilla or cinnamon. It’s worth noting that the brain can only process about three or four odour objects at a time, so don’t get frustrated if you can’t think of more than three aroma adjectives for your tea.
How much caffeine is in tea?
As mentioned earlier, tea leaves contain different chemical substances due to different degrees of fermentation.
For example, black tea can contain about 47-90 mg of caffeine per cup; white tea about 6-60 mg per cup; and green tea about 20-45 mg per cup. These figures clearly show that tea can be drunk at night with minimal chance of insomnia, whereas coffee on the other hand is more concentrated at about 95 mg of caffeine per cup.
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