How Are the Flavors Formed in Teas? The Chemistry of Herbal Teas!

Tea assortment. Each is different. But, WHY??? And, HOW???
Tea assortment. Each is different. But, WHY??? And, HOW???

What makes black tea black, green tea green, mint tea minty and floral tea so floral? Find out here in Herbal Teas, Part 3.

BLACK vs GREEN TEA

Oxidation makes the difference between green and black teas.
Oxidation makes the difference between green and black teas.

Black tea is the most common type of tea in the Western world. It is noted for its full flavor and it pairs well with many Western foods, particularly sweets and creamy foods. For this reason, black teas are popular for afternoon teas.

Tea becomes "black" tea through the process of full- or almost full- oxidation. Typically, black tea is rolled or crushed with machines to release its natural oils, which react with oxygen in the air to change the aroma and flavor of the tea leaves. When oxidation is complete, the tea is heated and dried to halt the oxidation process. Richer, deeper flavor nuances develop during oxidation with tannins, citrus, malt, and even chocolate undertones emerging in the finished brown-black leaves.

Green tea is simply tea that has NOT been oxidized.

Green tea- unoxidized, simple, grassy, and mild flavored.
Green tea- unoxidized, simple, grassy, and mild flavored.

Japanese green teas are usually steamed while Chinese green teas are processed using dry heat. Since they are not oxidized, they also have less caffeine developed in their chemistry.

Oolong tea- being partially oxidized- is somewhere in between black and green teas in strength, flavor and caffeine content.

Whereas green tea is unoxidized and black tea is fully or almost fully oxidized, oolong tea is partially oxidized. It is rolled by hand or machine (to bring the essential oils to the surface for oxidation) and pan-fired or otherwise heated and then allowed to oxidize. This process is repeated over and over until the desired level of oxidation is reached. Many oolongs are roasted after they have been oxidized in order to further develop their aromatic profiles.

Depending on their processing,- ( and there is lot of room between no oxidation and full oxidation to develop different flavors) oolongs are more likely to have have undertones of orchids and other flowers, lychee and other fruits, honey, butter or cream, coconut and/or vanilla. Arguably, oolongs have a more complex flavor profile than its black or green tea cousins.

THE CHEMISTRY OF TEA FLAVORS

Terpenes- the building blocks of great tastes and aromas.
Terpenes- the building blocks of great tastes and aromas.

Don't worry: once you learn just ONE word and ONE pattern, this will all start to make sense! I promise!

The flavors and fragrances found in teas are from the essential oils in the particular fruits, seeds, flowers or leaves from which that tea is made. And the major constituents of essential oils that create the profile of that herbal tea are called TERPENES. (There's that one word.)

Terpenes are the major constituents of essential oils derived from plants used to make tea, scent cosmetics, etc. Terpenes can be divided into groups based on the number of isoprene units (each isoprene being a C5H8 molecular group) each contains. Each plant may contain from several on up to hundreds of terpenes, although one or two usually predominate and provide the basic characteristics of the essential oil of that plant, and therefore, the teas made from that plant.

Mints flavor is shaped mostly by menthol and menthone. But, just say mint and youll be fine.
Mint's flavor is shaped mostly by menthol and menthone. But, just say mint and you'll be fine.

For example, if a plant oil smells “minty”, it probably contains some amount of menthol. Menthone and menthene may also help shape the profile of "mint". As you may have already noticed, the names of specific terpenes are usually derived from the name of the plant PRODUCING that terpene, ie., thymol from thyme, pinene from pine, geraniol from geranium, etc. (There's that one pattern.) Here are some common plants- many of which provide a basis for an herbal tea- and a list of their predominant terpenes which shape their flavor profiles.

Terpene names are almost the same as their plant sources.
Terpene names are almost the same as their plant sources.

See? I told you it would make sense.

Now that you have gone through all three MyTakes on the benefits, types and flavors of herbal teas, relax with a soothing cup of your favorite!

Enjoy!
Enjoy!
How Are the Flavors Formed in Teas? The Chemistry of Herbal Teas!
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Most Helpful Girl

  • SueShe
    Thanks for this very interesting insight on tea culture.

    Being British, and therefore a tea drinker by nature, I found interesting facts I did not know about tea. I surely will view my cup of tea from a different point of view from now on.

    I like most kind of teas but I must admit that one of the more healthier one is not "my cup of tea" and that is the green tea. I just cannot like the taste despite having tried numerous times.
    Is this still revelant?
    • Massageman

      Yes. That fresh "grassy" taste of a couple of brands aren't "my cup of tea" either. I have to stick with certain brands.

    • SueShe

      Thanks for the MHO. I will prepare my kettle to celebrate this even with a hot Orange Pekoe (OP) :-)

Most Helpful Guy

  • blutwolfe
    Always like how in depth you go, well written, keep up the good work man, can't wait to see more lol
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

25
  • Gedaria
    Green tea is from a different plant to black tea. Same as mintit's a different plant. The only way to change the flavour is to blend the different types of tea...
    • Green tea and black tea are from the same plant. You didn't believe my original posts, so here's a blurb from "Kitchn" [sic] "Black and green tea come from the same shrub called Camellia sinensis. In both cases harvesters pluck the uppermost buds and leaves from the plant. So what’s the difference? It comes down to processing and oxidation, the chemical process that causes browning".

    • Gedaria

      You can say that of a dog, same species , but when look at what you can do , from a little dog like a Yorkshire terrier to a Irish wolf hound.
      Majority of the green tea comes from China black tea from Ceylon... Mint tea anywhere there is a mint plant...

  • Mädchen
    Seeing this post Made me remember that I Put a teepot on the stove an hour ago😅 anyways, interesting my Take :)
    • goaded

      Buy a Wasserkocher, it's safer!

  • zagor
    Interesting. I have a couple cups a day.

    But I won't be drinking that tea made from seeds that monkeys have shit out.
  • goaded
    Herbal "teas" aren't tea, and you assume everyone knows what a isoprene is!
    An interesting take, though, thank you.
    • Massageman

      Herbal "teas" ARE infusions, which I mentioned in an original take earlier in October. I didn't want to get buried in chemical lingo, hence, ONE word (terpene) and ONE pattern (terpene name and plant name use the same root word). Isoprene was just mentioned once in passing and can easily be ignored if one wants to. The similarity of the major characteristic-providing terpene and the plant in which it is found is the take-home point of the Take. Thanks for giving it a read.

    • goaded

      Sorry, I was just messing with you. It's a standard problem I have in Germany because I don't like coffee: "Do you have any tea?" "Certainly: rose-hip, redbush or cammomile?" :)

    • Massageman

      I don’t like coffee either- too bitter for me.

    • Show All
  • I like drinking hot tea and like green tea and black tea.
  • Nice info
  • saeyamazaki
    Best teas are Oolong Tea, Barley Tea, Green Tea
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