muffin tin containing mounds of tea leaves, herbs and bags

Exploring the World of Flavored, Scented, and Blended Teas

Michele Lillie

In the rich tapestry of tea varieties, flavored, scented, and blended teas hold a special place, captivating the senses with their aromatic bouquets and complex flavor profiles. These teas, celebrated for their inventive combinations and sensory delight, offer a gateway to a more immersive tea experience. As your guide through this fragrant world, let's unravel the mysteries of these teas, their crafting processes, and the flavors that define them. Understanding these distinctions can enrich your appreciation and guide your selections, whether you're a curious newcomer or a seasoned tea enthusiast.

All tea has flavor. Otherwise, why would it be the second most popular beverage in the world? Some teas only have the flavor that is inherent in the tea leaves. We call these “unflavored.” They all taste differently based on which tea plant cultivar is used, in what country or area of the country it is grown, the country's climate, what time of the year the leaves are plucked and how the leaves are processed after plucking.

Other teas have additional flavorings or scents added to them. We call these “flavored” or “scented” as they contain flavors/scents not inherent in the tea.

Green outline of a tea cup and saucer with the words Tea Time belor it.

Flavored, Scented, and Blended Teas: An Overview

Flavored teas

These teas have been infused with flavors beyond the tea leaves themselves. This is typically done by the application of flavoring agents. A tremendous amount of skill is required to understand how adding flavor will impact the cup so as not to overpower the essence of the tea’s natural flavor. It can be done by mixing tea leaves with natural extracts, nature-identical flavors, or artificial flavors.

As the Flavor & Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) points out, hundreds of natural substances in a strawberry lead to what we taste as strawberry flavor. Flavorists isolate these compounds to develop a strawberry flavor that we can add to our foods. They also design new flavor combinations that we love to try.

Do you look forward to those new Lay’s potato chip flavors each year? How do they do it? According to FEMA, “When a food company decides it wants to introduce a new product to consumers … they often contact flavorists at companies that specialize in creating flavors, and they ask them to create a flavor that meets their requirements and will be appealing to the consumer.”

Pile of bright red strawberries up close

Natural Extracts

An extract is an essential oil extracted from the leaves, fruits, blossoms, roots or other parts of the plant. It is these essential oils that carry the distinctive scents or flavors. For example, you can get a more intense orange flavor by using the zest, in which resides the essential oils, rather than the juice. A typical application of essential oils is done by a fine-mist sprayer to apply the flavor to the tea leaves evenly.

Nature-identical flavor

This is created in the lab from natural substances. The end product has a chemical structure identical to a natural flavor. These tend to be more stable than natural flavoring extracts and are usually less expensive. According to flavoring experts, most flavored products are flavored with nature-identical flavors. According to Gary Reineccious, a flavor chemist, “The reason they are produced is either because many flavorings are difficult to obtain in a useable form from natural sources, and/or they are can be very volatile, and have a very short shelf life. “

Since the FDA does not have a “nature identical” classification, they are considered "artificial." In Europe, this term is no longer used and they can be called “natural.”

Artificial flavor

Artificial flavor is one created by altering the chemical structure of a naturally occurring molecule. It results in a more intense and, typically, less expensive flavor.

One example that is often quoted is the flavor of banana. The natural chemical that gives the dominant flavor note is amyl acetate. It is a natural flavor if it is distilled from actual bananas with a solvent. If it is produced by mixing that amyl alcohol with other chemicals, it is considered an artificial flavor. Both taste and smell like bananas. It is similar with other flavors.

Although allowed in the US as long as they are identified as “artificial flavor,” this type of flavoring agent is banned in Europe.


When you look at your flavored tea, you may see dried fruit pieces, blossoms, or spices added to the tea leaves. These are called inclusions and mostly add visual appeal and maybe a bit of aroma. They usually do not change the flavor of the tea on their own.

Scented Teas 

Tea will easily absorb other flavors and aromas. This is why we are cautioned not to store our tea near other strongly flavored and aromatic items. This is, however, how scented teas are created. They are allowed to be exposed to aromatic ingredients so the scent infuses into the tea leaves. So, unlike flavored teas, true scented teas rely on the natural aromas of the added elements without direct incorporation into the tea itself.

One of the most recognizable is jasmine tea. The best jasmine teas use tea leaves harvested in the spring and then dried and stored. The tea masters wait until the most aromatic jasmine flowers blossom in late summer. If done in the traditional manner, the process involves layering the tea leaves with jasmine flowers. According to Dammann Frères, a French tea company that has existed since the 1800s, the dry tea leaves are alternately layered with jasmine flowers in four or five layers. They are left in contact for around 10 hours, with the mixture being regularly tossed to maintain a constant, ideal temperature. This allows the jasmine fragrance to be absorbed into the tea leaves. After the proper amount of time, the flowers are removed by hand, and the leaves undergo a final drying process. For the highest quality jasmine tea, this procedure may be repeated up to seven times with a new batch of fresh flowers each time.

Jasmine plant bush with blooming white jasmine flowers

Some tea makers might use both scenting and flavoring. Some large companies might just scent the tea once or twice and then add jasmine flavoring oil. You should be able to tell this by looking at the ingredient list on jasmine teas. The  Jasmine Green Tea  and  Jasmine Pearls  at English Tealeaves show only “tea and jasmine blossoms” on the ingredient list. If you also see “flavoring,” you will know that some type of jasmine flavor has been added. The former will hold its fragrance even after multiple infusions. The ones with flavors added will lose the aroma and flavor after only one or two infusions.

Other flowers may also be utilized in making scented teas – lotus, rose, magnolia and chrysanthemum.

Another popular scented tea is  Lapsang Souchong . Traditional Lapsang gets its smoky flavor and aroma from being dried over pine wood fires. Today, just as with Jasmine, you will also find some that are flavored.

Blended Teas

This category of teas is made by blending different types of tea leaves or blending in non-tea ingredients. It is done for a specific purpose.

  • · To maintain a consistent taste profile from crop to crop and season to season.
  • · To maintain a consistent price.
  • · To create a unique flavor experience only available from the supplier who created it.
  • · To match an industry standard for a common tea blend.

Those that contain only tea may be a mix of tea leaves from different tea farms in one area, from different regions of one country or even from different countries.

An example is Breakfast Teas. They are blended with tea leaves from different countries. The actual recipe will vary from company to company. English Tealeaves’ English Breakfast contains black tea from two regions: India and Sri Lanka.

Another example is our Assam teas.  Assam Kanoka  and  Assam Hathakuli  contain tea leaves that are harvested only from those respective tea estates.  Assam Leopards is a blended tea containing tea leaves from a mixture of tea farms in the Assam region of India.

Another type of blended tea is when other ingredients are mixed with the tea leaves. This might be herbs, flowers, dried fruit bits, or spices. An example of this type of blend would be  Genmaicha , a Japanese green tea blended with roasted and popped rice. Another popular example is  Chai  tea, which has been blended with spices.

In Conclusion

Flavored, scented, and blended teas represent a fascinating domain within the tea universe, as diverse as it is delightful. As you explore this vibrant world, remember that the best tea is the one that resonates with your personal taste and values. Whether you lean towards the natural subtleties of scented teas, the bold blends of flavors, or the innovative creations using nature identical or artificial flavors, there is a tea out there for every palate. We invite you to embark on this sensory journey with an open mind and a curious spirit, ready to discover your next favorite tea.

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