Coco Zambarau – No. 44! – A Sneak Peek into Creating An MTC Tea Blend
The journey to creating a unique tea blend often takes a meandering path and getting to your desired destination takes patience, perseverance and dedication. I often came across people thinking tea blending was simply “mixing” ingredients together and I thought it would be great write down the process of creating a blend, to give tea enthusiasts an insight into tea blending.
Our latest MTC blend – “Coco Zambarau” took us 44 attempts to get the recipe just right. I won’t walk you through all 44 iterations J but give you a sneak peek into the process of creating this delicious blend.
Step 1: Choosing the Tea
We have hundreds of tea samples that I have cupped and kept meticulous notes on and when it comes time to choose the base tea for a blend, I go back to these notes for reference to pick out one tea that we will use for the new creation. This is based not only on the attributes of the tea, but also the carefully evaluated characteristics of the farm such as terroir, altitude, and soil composition. My thought process behind picking “Purple” tea for this blend was based on the following:
- We were in the midst of another spike of Covid in Kenya and people were going to be indoors again, so I wanted to pick a tea with the most health benefits.
- The Kenyan rainy season was soon approaching, and an immune booster tea would be well appreciated.
- An under-represented tea in the world of tea.
All of the above, easily made the Purple tea leaf the front runner for choosing this category of tea.
(From some international followers, I often get asked what purple tea is and is it really considered a category of tea? So, excuse me, while I happily embrace the tea nerd in me and give you a brief synopsis J )
Purple Tea is derived from the Camellia Assamica Tea leaf. However, the leaf has a genetic mutation on the outer rim of the leaf which gives it, a wonderful tinge of a deep purple color on the leaves of the plant. Farmers in both parts of the tea growing sides of Kenya (the East & West of the Rift Valley) have spent a lot of time and energy perfecting the leaf quality of purple leaf. Research has shown that purple tea has exceptionally high concentration of anthocyanins (it’s a type of antioxidant found in blue superfoods like blueberries, but purple tea has 15X the concentration of anthocyanins than blueberries)! but still this tea doesn’t enjoy widespread acknowledgement among tea lovers.
Step 2: Choosing the Ingredients for the Blend
Selecting the ingredients to blend the tea is the most creative part of the process. It is like choosing dancers for synchronized swimming. They don’t have to be the best swimmers but need to complement each other.
I am generally looking to evoke a certain emotion/feeling from the tea when sipping it and there is no formula to start with achieving that goal. My thoughts for Coco Zambarau were the upcoming rains, month of Ramadan and what flavours could be soothing & comforting during this season. Growing up in Kenya, the rainy season always saw us huddling at home with piping hot samosas, pakoras or other treats with a cup of Chai. However, I wanted to create a tea that felt decadent yet was packed with health benefits. I channeled sipping hot coco on freezing cold nights in New York (when I lived there for 10 years) as the “flavour feel” that I wanted to get from this tea but using only natural ingredients. And there started the journey, to explore what of Africa’s natural bounty will bring out this imaginary taste in my mind into the cups of tea lovers.
After several recipe combinations, I happily landed on African produced cacao nibs (and devoured a fair bit of them before blending them in the tea 😊 – fully embracing this occupational hazard!) , but I wanted to round the mouthfeel of the tea & cacao and make it more aromatic, which I thought I could do with the addition of Zanzibari coconut.
Step 3: Putting the Ensemble together
Once I tasted, cupped and was finally happy with the ingredients that complimented the tea leaf, there followed several attempts that involved, bringing out the right amount of each ingredient so that they balanced and looked aesthetically pleasing to the eye but more importantly, did not overpower and bully each other, when they were finally able to ‘dance’ together when blended with the tea leaf.
43 combinations of these didn’t hit the exact right note but on the 44th attempt, the right amount of balance, texture and taste from all the ingredients – Et Voila! :)
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog which was a brief window into the tea blending process, and I hope when you are able to try this tea out, it evokes a feeling of decadence and luxury with the knowledge that you are doing your body & soul a world of good!
We would love to get your feedback when you have tried this tea!
P.S. The name Coco Zambarau was inspired from the hints of coco from the Cacao nibs and Zambarau, which is the beautiful Kiswahili word for “purple.”