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Custom-blending tea - restaurants or at home

In a SF thread, a dim sum restuarnt serves Gook Bo, a blend of,Chrysanthemum tea and Pu-erh tea.

Another poster said that there was Gook Sau, which is a blend of Gook Fa and Sau Mei tea leaves and went on to say ...

"One can easily custom request any mix at any dim sum restaurant, the afforementioned and Gook Sau blend very well together. I haven't tried other combinations, but maybe not all combos make sense"

Well, this was a new idea to me.

First question: At dim sum places what blends do you request and with which dishes? How do you ask this ... just ask for a pot of a blend of two teas or do you need to know names like Gook Bo?

Second question: This opened up new possibilites. I never considered blending teas. Does anyone do their own blends at home. I bet this would even work with tea bags where you could steep two different bags in one pot.

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  1. I can't answer your first question, but I have blended types of bagged tea. I don't like herbal teas on their own, so I have used one bag (or spoon) of a neutral black tea and one bag of an herbal tea like lemon or mint to get a nicely flavoured black tea.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Sooeygun

      That's a great idea. I often find herbel teas too grassy or too something. Maybe this will be a way to use up all those boxes sitting in my cabinet.

    2. To add to the discussion, the really good Hong Kong style cafe's (cha chaan teng) in Hong Kong, they blend upwards of 5 kinds of tea leaves to brew Hong Kong style milk tea. Sadly the type of leaves are all secret, but the general idea is that the mixture creates flavor, form, texture, and color as the end result. The different age of leaves (young vs old) and size/thickness will contribute to those factors. The type of leaves generally are Sri Lankan and Indian with some SE Asian. But it is a matter of experimentation.

      PG Tips (popular British commercial tea) has a special blend tea offering that combines leaves from Ceylon and Kenya.

      As far as the dim sum question, when the waitstaff ask you what tea you want, you can just say "Gook Bo" (for chrysanthemum and pu-erh) or "Gook Sau" (for chrysanthemum and sau mei).

      1 Reply
      1. re: K K

        Hey KK, was able to blend three grades of sau mei with two grades of chrysanthemum with mixed results. If you use a high grade of one mixed with a lower grade of the other I found that one will over match the other. Sau mei is a milder tea than pu-erh so the chrysanthemum smooth out the pu-erh and makes the blend more easy on the taste buds. I may learn to like the second blend but at the moment I like Sau Mei by it self but with that say I could learn to like it.

        Next time I play cards I will have to pick the mind of a poker buddy on blending teas. His family have been in the tea business for generations. I know what I like, but new ideas are welcome but it takes time to change my old ways.

        Tea is something I have developed a taste for. Thanks rwo for starting this thread.

        One blend my cousin got me to love is rose buds with Dragon Pearl Tea balls (rolled green tea leaves that open up after releasing it favor).

      2. That's interesting about dim sum restaurants--I'd not heard that before.

        In general, among tea snobs--and I must admit to being a bit of one--tea blending is considered to be a no-no. The idea is that if the tea is good enough in the first place, blending results in a whole that is less than the sum of the parts. In other words, the unique characteristics of each tea become muddied. I think this is the same attitude many wine enthusiasts have about blending varietals or vintages. Blending a good tea with another flavor, especially if it is a classic like jasmine or bergamot, is generally looked on more favorably, though some really strict tea snobs would probably reject even this notion.

        My own snobbery has many exceptions, and I will gladly blend teas when I've had them awhile and they are past their peak. A little lemongrass gives a nice complexity to an over-the-hill green tea, I've found. And when it comes to ice tea, all bets are off. Pursuing modern interpretations of the southern tea punches that were the original ice teas, I've been known to blend green teas with port wine reductions and citrus juices. This is a different kind of blending of course, but then ice tea is a very different creature from hot tea!

        2 Replies
        1. re: Low Country Jon

          re: blending tea - I would disagree that this practice is an absolute no no among tea snobs. A lady from a leading tea grower's family in Yunnan once suggested that I try a blend of raw and cooked pu-erh, brewing both leaves together. The result was a tea with a more balanced and structured flavour combination. In the end, I would think that it would be dependent on the qualitties of the teas involved and may vary on a case by case basis.

          1. re: Low Country Jon

            Yes, and no, on the blending issue with tea snobs. Ideally, we're all flush enough to enjoy the best quality whole leaf tea every day. Most people recognize that not all teas are going to be affordable for everyone all the time. It's also a shame to toss tea that didn't turn out as balanced or simply not to someone's particular preference and taste. So, I've bought tea that was in some way lacking and ended up blending it to round it out in some form or fashion, playing with the brewing time. One has to be careful when blending teas of the same type, that one will not become too strong or tannic in the time it takes the other to develop in the pot. But, bearing that in mind, it's possible to make something drinkable from leaves you didn't like much by adding another leaf in good proportion. This makes experimenting with different regions and processing methods more affordable.

          2. Here's one example of an extreme case....blending green tea with whiskey .This was discovered entirely by accident....they say by some Taiwanese/Chinese karaoke person who had a little too much time on their hands. It has been the karaoke drinking and singing game drink for a while. Maybe some hipster from the 90s can clue us in on its origin, lol.

            2 Replies
            1. re: K K

              One of my favorite mixed drinks! I was introduced to it in college by a friend who'd studied abroad in China; I've never seen anyone else drink it here. I wouldn't do it with a really high-quality green tea, but for the run-of-the-mill stuff it's great.

              1. re: K K

                Your story is close to my friends who love Remy Martin and add green to his Remy. I have not tried it, I like my tea and my Remy each in it's own place.

              2. i started blending my own teas out of necessity. several years ago, upton tea imports stopped carrying my favorite tea, royal fruit. after a couple of tries, i was able to replicate it. it's a combination of apricot, peach, mango, black current, raspberry and the pineapple and papaya combination from tealuxe and some dried orange peel. i used to buy 4 ounces at a time; now a batch is over a pound.

                i also found a nice combinination: 4 parts organic yunnan with 1 part creme de la earl grey.

                1. In some restaurants in Asia, pu-erh with chrysanthemums (ju2 pu3 in Mandarin) is a relatively standard digestif and may be automatically served at the end of the meal.

                  I've also had oolongs with osmanthus flowers. Was told that in some cases, the practice of blending oolongs with fruits and flowers began as an attempt to mimick the flavour of Da4 Hong2 Pao2 (Scarlet Robe), where teas from the original bushes (only 8 left iirc) give off a fantastic fruity aftertaste. Admittedly a Scarlet Robe with that flavour profile is also hard to find, I've only had it twice. Most scarlet robes are from cuttings and while they have that rich roasty flavour of the Wuyi mountains followed by a certain mellow sweetness, they lack that fruit component that make the original that compelling.

                  Certain Japanese teas involve some blending as well, such as karigane, which adds whitish stems to the green gyokuro style leaves, to add an extra sweetness.

                  And at a more subtle level, there is some blending in terms of the relative amounts of leaves, buds and tips; it's noticeable in the heterogenous colour of pu-erh cakes (whites among black) or a Taiwanese Oriental Beauty (sometimes called white-tip oolong).

                  1. Where we're talking about mixing infusions - fruits, flowers, herbs, etc., the only thing that ought to restrict you is your own palate. But I do think that where real tea is concerned (Camellia sinensis), you have to worry about stepping on those unique characteristics that make each tea unique. Just as with whiskey, coffee and wine, it would take a trained tongue to understand what characteristics blend well while others clash and destroy.

                    I have done this when I've come down to the last bit in a couple of jars and need to get a pot together. By then, the intense flavors of each tea is usually gone anyway, but almost universally, the result is a "brown glop" of flavors - might as well buy US Lipton or Tetley tea bags. The fruity uniqueness of a great second flush darjeeling just isn't going to hold up against an astringent final flush ceylon - they're both black - but that's about all they have in common. Why pay for the great tea flavors if you're just going to blend them away?

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: applehome

                      In addition to clashing flavours, it's also possible that the broken leaves at the bottom of a jar would lead to greater extraction of all sorts of compounds usually not dissolved from whole leaf, which can change the taste of the tea (essentially like over steeping).

                      1. re: limster

                        I blend tea bags all the time. In fact my daily tea mix is a blend, 5 bags of Foojoy Royal Kwan Yin with 2 Earl Grey (Repubic of Tea's for preferece) this in conjuction with water a good qunatity of sugar and the juice of a fresh key lime make a pitcher of tea that I am happy to sip as my dominat bevarage throughout the day (which is why I make a pitcher of it (I like my tea iced). Sometimes on weekends I make a relaxation blend too, involving earl grey (a different brand) Tulsi (Holy basil) egyptian mint, and ginger peach tea bags. mixed with a thick varietal honey (I like fir for preference) and a splash of rosewater. this makes a tea with just enough caffenine to keep me conscios though my late night television but not enough to interfere with my sleep when I'm done.

                        1. re: limster

                          limster, some of us collect that bottom of the jar broken pieces for a special brew that has to be quick infusion, but almost always has intensified flavor. Strangely enough, one can't get that same effect with ground up whole leaves. So yes, there must be some special way the tea dust settles.

                          "..I've also had oolongs with osmanthus flowers. Was told that in some cases, the practice of blending oolongs with fruits and flowers began as an attempt to mimick the flavour of Da4 Hong2 Pao2 (Scarlet Robe), where teas from the original bushes (only 8 left iirc) give off a fantastic fruity aftertaste. Admittedly a Scarlet Robe with that flavour profile is also hard to find, I've only had it twice. Most scarlet robes are from cuttings and while they have that rich roasty flavour of the Wuyi mountains followed by a certain mellow sweetness, they lack that fruit component that make the original that compelling...."

                          Some of the Dan Cong (Single bush) tea with misleading names that mentions Cinnamon, Honey...etc are unscented and unblended tea that have this natural floral and or fruity sweet scent, and slightly bitter (in a good way) taste. I don't know how long I've written it off as flavored tea until the last few years. The best one I've had was so complex and rich that it started my branching out of my narrow "Taiwanese tea only" circle.

                          I would have loved to been able to taste the Da4 Hong2 Pao2.

                          1. re: HLing

                            on the subject of those "natural fragrance teas" has anyone else bumped into one whose name trasnlates out to something like "fragrance of milk?" I tried it once and found is, not so much pleasant or umplesant but just weird as the flavor is closer to butter than milk and (since I am not Tibetan or a lover of tsampa) I am not use to butter flavored tea. Also anyone else had Ama-cha that Japnese tea that manages to be both sugary sweet and intensley astringent. Odd sensation, isn't it?

                        2. re: applehome

                          Let me suggest that before you mix two teas, you measure out equal amounts of each and make a small pot to taste. No harm, no foul, and no commitment. If you've drunk enough tea and tasted the two singly before you consider a blend, hopefully you can ascertain whether they might be complementary. Chowhound is all about discovery, and we shouldn't be discouraging people from a little experimentation, chiding them that they're not well trained enough and will make destructive, clashing errors because they're so ignorant.

                          Use some common sense and of course, if you have a great whole leaf tea you enjoy, by all means enjoy it single estate. If you have a few ounces of something you're not enjoying all that much, what's the harm in blending a couple teaspoons with another whose characteristics will only round out the lesser leaf? I'm sorry if I come off irritated, but this sort of snobbery irks me a bit. Darjeelings, because of their precious prices, yes, I drink by themselves. Most I've had are fine specimens on their own, and wouldn't get much benefit from blending. There is a good tradition on blending assam, yunnan and ceylon teas that any self respecting hound with a palate is welcome to join in on. Tea is participatory. We have only a small pot to lose in the process, if we practice with some judiciousness.

                          1. re: amyzan

                            Let's try this again, as it seems to be ok for you to call me a snob, but not for me to question it.

                            The concept that tea is participatory, where wines, whiskeys, and coffees are apparently not, seems strange to me. The joys of discovering new flavors and new sensations by trying new teas, from new regions and new plantations, new finishes, different flushes, are no different from discovering new wines with new terroir or different aging and finishing techniques, new coffees from different places and different roasts, tasting single malts side-by-side and learning to differentiate all the flavors, smells and feelings. It's a process of identifying what pleases you - not necessarily what is accepted as being good by some self-proclaimed authority. Learning is not snobbery. Snobbery is insisting that only the best, or most expensive, or a particular ingredient or process, is acceptable for use.

                            Apparently, you draw the line somewhere - you have a standard to which you adhere whether you expect others to do so or not - no mixing expensive darjeelings. Why is that not snobbery? Why is that just not an example of some experience and enlightenment from which you've formed an opinion? What would you say to someone that insisted on mixing expensive darjeelings with an outlandish Taiwanese oolong? Oh My God... might be an appropriate reaction. Irritation, might even follow!

                            1. re: applehome

                              Point taken, sorry to have called you a snob. I apologize. If it is any consolation, I consider myself someone who knows what she likes. I don't think there is any shame in having preferences. The best isn't always the most expensive, especially when we're talking about personal taste. Having likes and dislikes doesn't keep me from trying new things. My thoughts on this aren't about standards at all, but rather enjoying food and life. I'll try to clarify.

                              My only real attempt here was to say that if a person buys a tea they don't entirely like the flavor or balance or body, it's okay to play around with it. For myself, I usually play with steeping time first, seeing what I can get from the single leaf. If this doesn't yield good results, I don't see any harm in doing a test cup blending that tea with another I might feel would be complementary. I'm not advocating that people do this with every tea, or do it willy nilly, and certainly not without tasting the teas first. Personally, I wouldn't do it with teas, yes, like expensive darjeelings, that I feel are well balanced by themselves. This isn't snobbish, it's practical. Why mess with something good already? I'm only saying it's okay to experiment rather than throw out something you wouldn't otherwise enjoy drinking. There are lots of classic blends to emulate, if a person is reticent: https://secure.uptontea.com/shopcart/...