How to use an Aroma Wheels

Flavor or Aroma wheels were first developed by Ann C. Noble for the wine industry but was eventually applied to many specialty foods and beverages from truffles to tea. The concept is simple; the aroma wheel helps to provide vocabulary to consistently describe the aromas experienced within tea as well as providing a visual representation of how flavors can be combined for blending applications.

There are several tea-specific aroma wheels in circulation however one of the most commonly used for tea is that of the International Tea Masters Association (ITMA), seen below.

The center of the wheel starts off most generically within 10 groups (e.g. floral, spicy, earthy etc.) working its way over 3 levels to far more specific elements. It’s important to note that the elements on the wheel may not actually be contained in the tea (e.g. oak wood) but there may be a similarity to or even possibly shared chemicals that mirror the olfactory profile (smell) on a chemical level.

The aroma wheel can also be used for the purpose of creating blends where a common strategy is to choose a group (e.g. floral) and to combine flavors for a pairing by complimenting or enhancing within that group. An example of this may be to create an herbal tisane from various flowers on the floral base tone of a white tea.


Australian Tea Ceremony: Bush Billy Tea

Many cultures have their own unique and interesting tea ceremonies. Some may not consider Australian “billy tea” as a tea ceremony at first however it has many of the elements of a ceremony and many Aussies are very proud of this tradition.

Billy tea was developed by the early Australian settlers and is based in the Australian bushland out in the open. Many historians agree that the term “billy” probably came from the corned beef, bouilli or “bully cans” that were recycled by the settlers and used as tea pots on open fires. The loose tea leaves were put directly into the metallic can together with a gum (eucalyptus) leaf for extra flavor.

The billy can is left to simmer on the open fire for a few minutes. It is removed and the boiling tea is swung around in a circle, 3 times, by the handle to use the centrifugal force to push the leaves down to the base of the can. The tea is then poured out into cups for everyone to enjoy as a black tea.

The famous Australian poet, Henry Lawson often included billy tea in his works and billy tea has come to represent the free Australian spirit and bushland. In the famous poem Waltzing Matilda, the original version opens with the verse “and he sang as he looked at the old billy boiling”.

Bill Tea Ranger.jpg

Jasmine Pearl Tea

Jasmine Pearls (also called Buddha’s Tears) are a stunning example of tea, infused with the natural perfume from jasmine flowers. The tea is harvested in early spring and processed into green tea (although other bases can be used, green tea is the most common). The tea is hand rolled into tight balls about half a centimeter in diameter.

The tea is stored for a few months until jasmine flowers are in full bloom. The jasmine flowers are harvested very early in the morning while their petals are still closed to preserve their perfume. The flowers are chilled until nightfall when the magic happens. The balls of green tea are placed onto the ground in a long row and the jasmine flowers are piled onto them. As the flowers gently warm under the evening warmth, they begin to open, releasing their perfume.

Since tea is so so sensitive and absorbent, the green tea readily captures the perfume, drawing the oils deep into their leaves (this is one of the reasons storing tea in the correct manner is so important).

Soon the perfume has been transferred from the jasmine flowers into the green tea balls and the process is repeated the next night with fresh jasmine flowers. Each time the process is repeated, the jasmine scent intensifies.

Jasmine Pearls are graded by the quality of the green tea base and the number of times that they have been exposed to the jasmine flowers. The process is usually repeated 5-6 times.

As with all commodities, when there is something that is valuable, fakes will also exist. The most common way of making “fake” jasmine pearls is to use artificial jasmine perfume. These compounds are synthesized in a laboratory, have a longer shelf life and are extremely cheap. At Impala + Peacock we value organic teas free from flavor enhancers which makes it a tricky tea to source. A well trained nose and some knowledge of the growers will quickly identify synthetic flavor enhancers over the real thing.

An image of the rows of Jasmine flowers on top of the Jasmine Pearls beneath. The visible jasmine flower buds are still closed.

An image of the rows of Jasmine flowers on top of the Jasmine Pearls beneath. The visible jasmine flower buds are still closed.

Tea and Mindfulness

Tea, at its origin, was a medicine in ancient China. Celebrated through tea ceremonies throughout China and later, to other parts of Asia. The process of making tea, naturally slows us down. The act of putting water to the boil, waiting for the leaf to steep and then slowly sipping tea that is a little-too-hot to drink, shoulders in a window of time for pause, where nothing else matters. The very act of making and drinking tea can be mindful and meditative. Science is revealing more benefits of meditation than we had ever imagined from reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, increasing mental function and just making us all-round nicer human beings!

Below is a simple exercise to transform your next tea drinking experience into a powerful mindful experience:

1.     Start by eliminating as many distractions as possible (TV, screaming children, hungry cat etc.)

2.     Prepare your tea cup with your infuser or teapot. Pause for a moment and take in the sounds and smells of the dry leaf, the shadow your teapot is casting etc.

3.     Bring some water to a boil and take the kettle, cup and tea over to a quite space. Find a comfortable spot to sit.

4.     Place your hand on the kettle handle and the other on your tea cup and pause here for a moment closing your eyes. Take 3 deep breaths from the bottom of your stomach trying to think of nothing in particular other than being aware of what you are feeling and hearing. Try not to judge what you hear and feel. Simply acknowledge it as things happening to you.

5.     Slowly pour the water into your cup or teapot watching how the steam dances. Continue breathing deeply and from the bottom of your stomach.

6.     Holding the cup, focus on the warmth and continue taking long, purposeful breaths focusing on not thinking about anything other than observing and feeling.

When you have thoughts forming in your mind, visualize picking the thought out of your mind and throwing it into a river. Watch as it is washed away and return to the rhythm of your breathing.

7.     Continue taking slow and mindful sips of tea, coming back to your breath and concentrating on what you’re feeling and smelling.

The act of mindfulness doesn't need to be a daunting task task that requires levitating monks and yoga pants. It's often the most humble and basic of routines that can have most effect on our lives when transformed into a mindful activity.


Photo credit: Global Tea Hut. Special thanks to Wu De and the team at the Global Tea hut to first introducing us to tea meditation.

Tea Growing Regions of the World

Tea (camellia sinensis) is an evergreen plant that grows primarily in tropical and sub-tropical climates but some varieties can grow as far south as Tasmania and New Zealand or as far north as Canada. The plants prefer high rain fall regions and slightly acidic soils (like those found in volcanic areas).

It takes about 4 years from planting before harvesting can start at a commercial level. Left to nature, a tea plant can grow up to 16m tall. In many parts of China, there are still forests with ancient and large tea trees.

Tea plants are native to China and up to the mid 1800s, China was the only place growing tea commercially. A spy, Robert Fortune, working for England stole the tea plant from China in the mid-1800s and took it to Darjeeling, India where it has since been spread across the globe.

Australia produces some tea, the Impala + Peacock Genmaicha is sourced from a Victorian farm (under Japanese growing and production techniques) however the Australian climate tends to be very harsh, imparting a bitterness to many of the Australian grown teas. The Impala + Peacock Brunswick Breakfast incorporates some tea grown in northern NSW.

The chart below gives a great snap shot of where our tea comes from. It's clear to see that China still leads the way in tea production, curiously Japan produces only a very small amount of tea despite it's strong tea culture.

How to Pair Tea with Food

Pairing wine, cheese and tea is a growing area of culinary experience. A well paired cake or pasta takes a meal to the next level. We have seen more focus from the cafes that we support in pairing our teas to their menus. In one of our most recent tea blending courses, one of my students asked me what the art and science of pairing tea with food is all about.

There are 3 ways in which you can combine flavours (this can be applied more broadly beyond tea):

Pair by enhance

Use the tea to bring out something more subtle that exists in the food, enhancing the flavor. For example our Earl Grey tea has natural, organic bergamot (citrus) peel and oil blended into a black tea. When you know what you are looking for, the citrus can be spotted, but it is subtle.

Pairing Earl Grey with a lemon tart will enhance the citrus and be a delicate, implied association of flavors.

Pair by compliment

This is the easiest of food combinations where two of the same flavours are combined. Pairing our lemon myrtle and ginger with a lemon tart is the perfect example of this. The lemon from the lemon myrtle flavour with the lemon tart making a simple complementing strategy.

Pair by contrast

Pairing by contrasting flavours usually has a polarizing effect where one half of your dinner guests will love it, and the other half will say they love it, while secretly trying to get fluffy’s attention under the table to feed the dog your new mushroom-chocolate tart.

Lindt ventured into pairing by contrast when they created their sea salt chocolate and chocolate chili blocks. Our Monk’s Garden pu’erh tea pairs by contrast by combining an earthy pu’erh tea with lavender flowers and coconut.

Whatever the outcome, pairing food is a sure way to push your food skills and is have a bit of fun. As a starting guide we’ve recommended the following combinations with some of our most popular teas and tisanes:

Coconut Mint – Paired by enhancing to rice pudding

Lemon Myrtle + Ginger – Pair by complimenting with lemon sorbet (the temperature difference here makes for a pair by contrast in some ways as well)

Genmaicha Green – Pairs by enhancing a fried rice savory dish

Mint Variation – Pairs by contrast with a thick mud cake

Peacock Chai – Pair by enhancing with an Indian curry

How to Blend your Own Tea

Blending tea (or tisanes) is a fun way of exploring different tastes and making something unique and special. A personal blend can make an intimate gift to a friend or lover. It can meet your exact needs and tastes and it is easy and fun to do!

At Impala + Peacock we have been blending our own teas and tisanes since the beginning. Here are a few tips we've picked up along the way:


Many things can be used for blends - be creative and adventurous (please use common sense at the same time as not everything is edible, do some research if unsure). Almost all spices, dried herbs and many flowers can work. A spice store or Indian supermarket are excellent places to begin or even your own garden. We strongly recommend using organic ingredients where possible as it's healthier and usually much stronger in flavour and aroma. Ensure that all the ingredients are dried.


Decide what the intent of your blend is. Deciding on your intent will guide your choice of ingredients. A medicinal blend would be very different to a blend that is created to look and smell appealing. A caffeine free tisane would not use tea for a base whereas a pick-me-up blend would.


Some ingredients extract stronger than others (e.g. lavender, spices etc.). To avoid an unbalanced blend where one ingredient is over-powering, we recommend following a simple ratio of 70% "base" ingredients and 30% "heart" or "top note" ingredients (by volume not weight). A base ingredient is one that you would be able to have a whole pot of by itself. The base must not be over-powering but have enough complexity to combine the other ingredients together. Rooibos, tea (white, green, black etc.) and chamomile make great bases. Heart and top notes are those that offer more pronounced flavour that could overwhelm. Pepper, chili, lavender and lemon peel are all heart or top note ingredients.

Chai is a good example of a blend that follows this ratio; 70-80% of a chai is black tea and 20-30% is a mix of spices (ginger, cardamon, cloves, pepper, cinnamon etc.)


Consider how the ingredients would mix. If you select a base with large fluffy leaves (e.g. peppermint) and mix pepper into it, the small, dense pepper particles would likely drop to the bottom of the jar and result in a poorly mixed blend. This would require regular mixing and caution when spooning out the mix. This can be avoided by mixing ingredients together that have similar sized leaves or parts.

Other points

You may want to give some consideration to the temperatures at which the ingredients should steep at and ensuring that they are consistent. For example if a green tea is used as the base then the steep temperature would be limited to 75-80 C. Most herbs, flowers and spices will take high temperatures and will not burn and become bitter like tea leaves, however it's best to test each on a case-by-case basis if in doubt.

Lastly don't be overly caution. Have fun, explore and be prepared to try something new and different. You may just create your next favourite drink!

If you are looking for some help or want to expand your library of ingredients, we run one-on-one blending sessions in Brunswick, follow this link to find out more Blending Classes.

Exploring a Rare Japanese Green Tea

One of the rarest and most flavorsome green teas in the world is Japanese Guyokuro (pronounced "Guyo-Ku-ru" with the "Guyo" sounding more like a rapid "gooey").

Twenty days before harvest, the tea plants are covered in a thick cloth starving them from sunlight. In response the plants completely changes their leaf chemistry resulting in a completely different flavour.

Even more interestingly the change in chemistry results in a boost of chemicals called catechins. Gyokuro, in particular, has extremely high levels of catechins and has been studied extensively by scientists who have found that the particular catechins found in Guyokuro inhibits the growth of cancerous cells in humans. There is sound scientific evidence showing inhibition of leukemia, renal cancer, skin cancer, breast cancers, mouth cancers and prostate cancer (see note 1).

Guyokuro is also steeped at a much lower temperature than most green teas (60-70 C) and can be re-steeped 3-4 times without much loss of flavour intensity. The resulting liquor is fluorescent green in colour, herbaceous in flavour with strong umami (marine) tones.

You can order your Guyokuro online here.

Note 1: "Foods that Fight Cancer" by Professor Richard Beliveau and Dr. Denis Gingras is an excellent introduction-level book and looks at the anti-cancer properties of green tea in particular.