Diva of talk shows Oprah Winfrey’s tea brand, Oprah Chai Tea hits the shelves this week.
“I like things really spicy, I like things chai’d up,” declares Oprah in a YouTube video that details her search for a blend that would reflect her.
Oprah is seen selecting “more enticing” flavours, and rejecting the ones that are “not robust enough”.
“As this process was going on and on (at Starbucks tasting room), I could tell that the tea needed a little more ginger and a little more pepper... I like things that have a little kick to them,” she explains.
Oprah Chai Tea, finally ready, is described as a bold mix of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves, blended with loose-leaf black tea and rooibos. The operative word here is blended or blending, which is also the topic of this week’s column
Why is tea blended? What is the art of blending?
The obvious reason is to create a totally separate identity for the tea, different from the original.
The most challenging factor in blending is achieving consistency, so that the blend sipped anytime of the year, anywhere, tastes the same. The challenge of consistency arises from the fact that tea crops are influenced by the vagaries of nature.
Now, creating a blend for a personality – Oprah Chai Tea being an example – calls for an approach vastly different from the one required in creating a blend for a particular market.
Bespoke teas address the challenge of matching a brew with a personality.
“It is a fascinating art, one that requires reading the mind of the consumer,” says the blender and speaks about the grammar of tea.
Oprah’s tea should be bold and robust like her. A brand for Beckhman, or closer home, for Amitabh Bachchan, would necessarily be stylish and made using high-grown orthodox leaves. Strong CTC dust or full-bodied Assams would best describe Rajnikanth.
A light flavoury cup made using cold-weather Nilgiris would match mellow, romantic beings.
On the subject of customised blends, here’s a little anecdote about renowned financier J.P. Morgan.
A lover of fine living and tea, his personal blend was dissed by a blender who called it “the worst tea” he had ever tasted.
Morgan replied, irritated, “What do you know about tea? Nothing.”
The blend, still being sold, is a combination of Formosa oolong, black teas and Lapsang Souchong.
(Make Tea Sangria to match your personality. Add fruits that best describe you or choose the tea that defines you)
Strong black tea infusion – one litre
Sugar – to taste
One grapefruit or a bunch of green grapes
Pineapple – half
Ripe mango – one
Lemon – one, squeezed for juice
Prepare tea infusion and sweeten with sugar to taste and cut grapefruit, pineapple and mango into bite-sized pieces. Put fruits in a punch bowl with infusion. Add lemon juice, stir and refrigerate for a few hours. Serve with ice cubes.