What does chicken soup have to do with tea? This is certainly not my favorite weather for hot soup, and I have not had a bowl of chicken soup in some time, but I have unexpectedly encountered the familiar, distinctive, and comforting aroma and flavor of chicken soup in several black teas that I have sampled:
This following photo of a bowl of chicken soup was contributed by RWS and is available on Wikimedia Commons under both GNU FDL 1.2 or later and CC BY-SA 3.0 licenses.
Which black teas taste like chicken soup to me?
The first tea in which I detected the aroma of chicken soup was Rishi Tea's Keemun, which is a black tea produced in the style of Keemun, but grown in Hubei province, rather than Anhui where Keemuns are traditionally made. I made a note of the interesting chicken-like qualities of this tea, but did not think much of it more until I tried Upton Tea Imports' Kaimosi Estate GFBOP1, which was a very different tea from Rishi's Keemun, but had a definite chicken-soup character as well. Then, recently I sampled Upton's Hubei Keemun Ji Hong, which, interestingly, I found very similar to Rishi's Keemun (although several months have passed since I tried that tea, so I cannot truly say whether or not they would be distinguishable side-by-side).
Why do these teas resemble chicken soup?
In terms of the flavor, I found all three of these teas to have a light, thinner quality, combined with a savory (umami) presence, with an almost salty quality. This helps explain the flavor experience.
What explains the presence of this aroma? I honestly have no idea but I find it fascinating. In general, I am quite fascinated by the diversity of smells that appear when drinking pure teas. Tea may be from a single plant, but the diversity of history of cultivation, different growing conditions, and different processing methods produces all sorts of fascinating resemblances to other foods.
Have you ever thought that a tea, black tea or otherwise, seemed a bit like chicken soup to you?