Tea Beverage Development

Tea Beverage Development Guide

Did you know that tea is the second most consumed beverage after water? From the ancient tea fields of China to your corner cafe, this popular beverage has been poured around the world for millennia. Today, tea beverage development is influenced by a diverse, global blend of time-honored traditions.  However, just because tea has been around awhile doesn’t mean it’s boring! Ready-to-drink, energy drink, boba, and even alcoholic tea seltzers are all trending, creating an exciting sand box for beverage developers to play in. Our Tea Beverage Development Guide is your source for discovering how tea can be used to craft bold, functional, and flavorful beverages.

Women in Sri Lanka picking tea leaves, Ceylon tea, beverage ingredient
Women hand pick tea leaves at a Sri Lankan plantation. Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest producer of tea and is best known for the Ceylon variety.

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Global Tea Traditions

From the gongfu tea ceremony of China to the classic British afternoon tea, each culture brings its unique perspective and traditions to the world of tea. In Korea, you’ll find an emphasis on tea for wellbeing, while Africa offers up rooibos, a tea with a terroir as rich and varied as the continent’s landscape. Indonesia’s herbal tea diversity showcases local botanicals, and India’s chai weaves together spices into a warm, aromatic tapestry. Taiwan’s artisans refine oolong and innovate with boba, whereas Japan holds matcha in its cultural heart, mastering its unique preparation method.

What are tea traditions exist in your part of the world? Share your stories for a chance to be featured on the Blue Pacific blog!

Exploring Tea Varieties

Green Tea: Delightfully Light

Green tea flavor profiles range from herbal and grassy to floral, sweet, and even smoky. Compared to black tea, it has a lower caffeine content, which makes it appealing for consumers looking for a subtle energy boost. Additionally, green tea has many health benefits backed by scientific research. This is why green tea and green tea extract are often used in natural and organic beverage development.

matcha green tea powder and matcha tea tools, tea beverage development
Matcha has a vibrant green hue, making it an innovative natural color for food and beverage development projects.

Three popular varieties of green tea capture the essence of this beloved beverage. First up, Sencha, a steaming cup of which unfurls a tapestry of taste that dances between fresh, vegetal notes and a subtle touch of seaweed, embodying the very essence of a sun-drenched field. Then we have Matcha, the vibrant green powder that has taken the culinary world by storm; its taste is a captivating duel between umami richness and a gentle hint of sweetness, akin to the first tender shoots of spring. Lastly, Gyokuro, often hailed as the jewel of green teas, offers a refined flavor profile with a savory depth, shading into a delicate sweetness reminiscent of a cool, shaded brook. Each sip of these teas invites a voyage of discovery into the nuanced spectrum of green tea flavors, showcasing why this drink continues to enchant and stimulate with each brew.

Black Tea: A Bold Tradition

The robust, malty notes of black tea are steeped in rich flavors that invigorate the senses. From high tea in the Scottish highlands to a Nepalese kitchen at the foot of the Himalayas, black tea provides civilized comfort and gentle energy to billions of people across the globe. What varieties of black tea are beverage development stars?

man holding a mug of black tea, tea beverage development concept
One of the most popular packaging formats for black tea is the single serve tea bag.

Assam, from the lush valleys of India, delivers a bold, hearty brew with a rich, malty sweetness that envelops the palate, often leaving behind a slightly astringent finish that invigorates the senses. Next on the list is Earl Grey, a quintessential blend that marries the deep flavors of black tea with the bright, citrusy aroma of bergamot oil, creating a uniquely refreshing and aromatic cup that’s both uplifting and comforting. Lastly, Darjeeling, often referred to as the “Champagne of Teas,” offers a lighter, musky-sweet profile with floral undertones and a hint of muscatel grape, making each sip a delicate and nuanced experience. Together, these teas represent the diverse and dynamic range of flavors that black tea has to offer, each bringing its own story and sensory delights to the table.

Herbal Tea: A Botanical Expression

Herbal teas are infusions of fruits, herbs, and flowers and do not include camellia sinensis, or “tea” leaves. They’re packed with natural properties that can uplift or calm, detoxify or invigorate, all while tantalizing with naturally diverse flavors. Here’s a list of some of the most popular botanicals used in herbal tea blends.

a variety of botanical tea ingredients in bowls on a wooden table, tea beverage development tools
The botanical combinations that can be blended into herbal teas are limited only by your imagination (and sometimes the DEA and FDA).

Top 10 Botanicals Used in Herbal Tea

  1. Chamomile – Known for its calming effects, chamomile offers a gently sweet and floral taste, reminiscent of crisp apples, making it perfect for unwinding after a long day.
  2. Peppermint – With its cool, refreshing kick, peppermint clears the mind and soothes the stomach. Its invigorating menthol flavor is both sharp and soothing.
  3. Ginger – A zesty and warming root, ginger brings a spicy kick to teas, which can aid digestion and fight off chills. Its robust flavor is both invigorating and comforting.
  4. Hibiscus – Vibrantly colored and tart, hibiscus has a fruity cranberry flavor and is rich in Vitamin C. It’s refreshingly sharp with a hint of natural sweetness.
  5. Lemongrass – This herb offers a citrusy, lemony flavor that is refreshing and light. It’s often blended with other herbs to add a zesty, aromatic quality to teas.
  6. Lavender – With its tranquil aroma, lavender tea has a distinct floral and slightly sweet flavor, often associated with relaxation and sleep support.
  7. Echinacea – Known for its immune-boosting properties, echinacea has a complex flavor profile that ranges from tart to bitter, with a grounding earthiness.
  8. Rooibos – Though technically from a different plant than traditional teas, rooibos offers a naturally sweet and nutty taste. It’s caffeine-free and loaded with antioxidants.
  9. Rose Hip – The fruit of the rose plant adds a tangy, sweet flavor to tea, with notes of ripe fruits and a subtle floral backdrop. It’s also packed with vitamin C.
  10. Sage – Sage imparts a slightly peppery flavor, with hints of mint and eucalyptus. It’s known for its anti-inflammatory properties and soothing effects.

Each of these botanicals and herbs contributes its unique flavor and health-promoting properties, making herbal tea not just a beverage, but an experience that engages the senses and nurtures the body. The limitless combinations of a vast array of functional ingredients makes herbal tea beverage development an exciting field of study!

woman pouring cup of chamomile tea on table surrounded by fresh florals, botanical tea, herbal tea beverage
Chamomile is believed to help soothe the mind and body, which is why it is used in many calming and cold relief herbal tea formulas.

Tea Beverage Development Terminology

To speak tea is to understand its language of flavor. Terms like “malty,” “earthy,” and “floral” only scratch the surface. Whether it’s the citrus punch in a cup of Earl Grey or the subtle sweetness of a jasmine green, flavor descriptors can help set taste expectations from the very first sip.

Navigating the complex world of tea flavors is like decoding a secret language. Here’s your cheat sheet!

Tea Flavor Descriptors

  • Astringent: That dry, slightly puckering sensation in your mouth, often found in green and black teas.
  • Biscuity: Reminiscent of freshly baked goods, often associated with some black teas.
  • Brisk: A lively or refreshing quality, usually attributed to a good balance of tannins.
  • Buttery: A smooth, rich texture often found in oolong teas that gives a creamy mouthfeel.
  • Earthy: Grounded flavors that remind you of the smell of wet soil or autumn leaves.
  • Floral: Fragrant notes that evoke the aroma of flowers; common in jasmine and some oolong teas.
  • Grassy: The fresh, green aroma similar to cut grass, characteristic of some green teas.
  • Herbaceous: Plant-like qualities that can remind one of fresh herbs.
  • Honeyed: A sweet, syrupy quality not unlike honey, adding a smooth, sweet finish.
  • Malty: Rich, grainy flavors akin to malt or cereal; often found in robust black teas.
  • Mineral: A clean, crisp note that can remind you of fresh spring water or wet stones, particularly present in some oolongs.
  • Nutty: Flavors reminiscent of nuts, which can range from almond to hazelnut, often found in green teas.
  • Peppery: A spicy kick that tingles the palate, usually detected in more robust teas.
  • Smokey: The evocative aroma of smoke, found in teas like Lapsang Souchong.
  • Sweet: A perceivable sweetness that balances a tea’s flavor profile, not always sugary.
  • Tannic: The wine-like quality that contributes to a tea’s astringency, referred to the polyphenols in tea.
  • Toasty: A warm, roasted quality similar to toasted bread, common in Hojicha.
  • Umami: A savory or meaty taste, a fifth basic taste alongside sweet, sour, bitter, and salty, prominent in high-quality green teas.
  • Velvety: A luxuriously smooth texture that coats the mouth, making each sip feel like a little indulgence.
  • Woody: Reminiscent of wood or bark – a rich, comforting base note in many aged teas.
woman sensory scientist smelling tea samples in lab, tea beverage developer
Tea beverage development requires a solid understanding of flavor descriptors. These sensory terms help us communicate differences in tea varieties, preparations, and quality.

Tea Beverage Development

Captivating the attention of today’s beverage consumer is no small task! Tea drinkers are more knowledgable and savvy than ever before, and their beverage trends reflect this. Natural and organic tea flavors are not just “nice to have;” they’re an expectation. Consumers are seeking clean label beverage flavors, authenticity, multi-functionality, and customizable taste experiences. Tea beverage development requires a keen eye for market trends, and an understanding of how processing impacts sensory elements like bitterness or astringency.

Though it’s an ancient drink, tea is at the front of some exciting and innovative beverage trends! Read on to learn about a few of our favorites.

Energy Drink Tea

Natural energy has been trending for awhile now, in part due to increasing concern over the negative health effects that excessive caffeine consumption can contribute to. Some consumers want a more gentle, gradual energy boost without the crash that comes from coffee or an energy drink. Green tea extract and yerba mate are two ways that tea is making an entry into the modern energy drink category. Request a sample of green tea extract

Yerba mate tea in traditional cup on a wooden table, energy drink innovation
Yerba mate is a type of herbal tea that is being incorporated into energy drinks due to its natural caffeine content.

Boba Tea

Boba tea, also called milk or bubble tea, is fun and flavorful Taiwanese tea beverage that has amassed global appeal in a relatively short time. “Bubble tea is made by blending a tea base with milk, fruit and fruit juices, then adding the signature ‘bubbles’ – yummy tapioca pearls that sit at the bottom.” (Twinnings) It’s playful, it’s customizable, and the chewy tapioca pearls add textural interest to the typically smooth beverage, creating a multi-sensory experience. Get natural and organic boba tea flavors

Boba kits for making the beverage at home and ready-to-drink bubble tea in bottles and cans are recent beverage innovations. Given the extreme popularity of boba tea, we see a lot of opportunity for growth in food service and convenience products.

Mushroom Tea

Functional teas are making big waves, leveraging ingredients such as adaptogens and antioxidants that resonate with consumers’ increasing health consciousness. One type of functional beverage that is gaining a fast following is mushroom tea, which is an herbal tea or herbal+black or green tea infusion made with specialty mushrooms.

Mushroom tea blends the earthy, umami profiles of fungi like Reishi, Chaga, Lion’s Mane, and Cordyceps, each with their own suite of potential health benefits. Reishi is lauded for its stress-relieving properties, perfect for those looking to unwind at the end of the day; Chaga may offer immune support, keeping those pesky colds at bay; Lion’s Mane is believed to improve cognitive function, offering a natural edge for students and busy professionals; and Cordyceps may be an energy enhancer, making it a favorite among fitness enthusiasts.

pouring glass of hot mushroom tea, mushroom in background, reishi mushroom, functional beverage
Consumers are switching from coffee and traditional tea to mushroom tea, which they feel offers a more gradual and sustained energy boost.

Tea Cocktails

A recent tea trend is the combining of tea and alcohol, both in alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages through the use of natural alcohol flavors. The emergence of alcohol-flavored teas, such as bourbon flavored Darjeeling tea, cater to consumers looking for the flavor complexity of their favorite spirits in a nonalcoholic drink. On the boozy side, mixologists have popularized the use of tea and tea flavor in craft cocktails, which has led to the emergence of a variety of hard iced teas in the ready-to-drink cocktail category. The nuanced flavors and subtle astringency and bitterness of tea blend nicely with hard alcohol and sweet fruit juices, creating a sophisticated and premium taste experience. We think there is a lot of room for innovation – and consumer demand! – for alcoholic and nonalcoholic tea beverages in the years ahead.

bartender mixing aan alcoholic tea cocktail at the bar, tea beverages
Hard iced tea and tea flavored spirits are trending! Whether as a beverage base or natural flavor, tea offers sophisticated complexity to traditional cocktails.

Beverage Development Services

We’ve distilled the art and science of tea — from age-old customs to the edge of innovation. Consider this guide your invitation to push the boundaries of beverage development, crafting drinks that honor tea’s ancient origins while innovating for the future. Keep exploring, keep experimenting, and be part of the tea revolution!

We hope these ideas help launch your next iconic beverage product!  Did you know that we offer beverage development services? From ideation to shelf-stable creation, Blue Pacific Flavors has been behind some of the most iconic beverages. If you’re facing a beverage development challenge, we have an expert who can help. Talk to an expert on the Blue Pacific Beverage Development team today!

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