This is a question, that I get frequently from customers. So I think it might be a good idea to re-publish this blog and shed some light into the flavoring mystery!
There is much confusion and mismarketing out there in regard to tea flavoring and we often get questions by curious or concerned customers in regard to how and with what our teas are flavored. The terms most often used in the tea industry to classify flavored teas are “natural” and “artificial”. In its simplest form, the term natural flavor is used to describe a product, which is derived from the actual fruit or spice, such as natural vanilla extract or natural bergamot oil as is used to flavor Earl Grey teas. Not every plant, fruit or spice lends itself for this kind of flavoring and therefore many other levels of flavoring are available:
A product that is derived from the essential oils or extracts of the actual product whose function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.
WONF-WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVORS
If the tea contains both the natural flavoring from the product it simulates and other natural flavors which reinforce the characterizing flavor, the food may be labeled as “with other natural flavors”.
NATURE – IDENTICAL
These flavors have raw materials that are found in nature. The molecular structure of nature-identical are the same as natural flavors but have been synthetically produced. They are metabolized in the body just like the natural product would be.
Any flavor synthetically reproduced which has raw materials that cannot be found in nature or are nature-identical, but their use is permitted by law. Artificial flavor agents may not be metabolized as natural or nature- identical products.
As for the labeling, all products labeled “natural” in Europe would also be natural in the U.S. as well. Under the laws of the Food & Drug Administration, European products labeled “nature-identical” are considered artificial and must be labeled as such in the U.S..
Even though, many teas contain dried fruit and spices, additonal flavoring is necessary to enhance and extend the shelf life of the flavor.
Aside from flavored teas, there are those that are scented, like lychee or jasmine. These teas are scented by adding fresh or dried flowers and the essential oils of these flowers are absorbed by the tea leaf, creating a strong and long- lasting flavor without any other additives.
If you have questions about what flavors are used in your tea, always ask your tea purveyor!
Reference: G.S. Haly Company