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What They Mean by ‘Natural Flavouring’

For a long time, we wondered just what tea companies mean when, on their packaging, the ingredients in a certain blend are listed as (for example):

‘Green tea, natural flavouring, natural vanilla flavouring with other natural flavouring.’

That’s a lot of flavouring! Why list ‘natural flavouring’ as a separate, different ingredient from ‘natural vanilla flavouring…with other natural flavouring’? Just what does that mean?

One of the worst offenders in the arena of vague ingredients lists is Twinings. That’s why we decided to email them to get the answer, and to confirm why some ingredients are listed with percentages, while others are not. Their initial response was:

Thank you for contacting us.

It is a legal requirement within the Food Standards Agency that the main ingredients reflected in the product’s name has the exact percentage disclosed. For example, our Lemon & Ginger infusion contains Ginger Root* (37%), Natural Lemon Flavouring With Other Natural Flavourings (25%), Lemongrass*, Blackberry Leaves*, Lemon Peel, Sweet Fennel*, Natural Ginger Flavouring With Other Natural Flavourings (3.5%).

Furthermore, ‘Natural Flavourings’ included in our blends are direct extracts of fruit, herbs, spices or other plant material.   These extracts are manufactured starting with the raw materials which undergo various heating, extraction and separation processes to concentrate the flavour compounds within those raw materials.

I hope this helps, but if you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me again.

We replied and pointed out that this response didn’t explain why, in their example, they listed ‘lemon natural flavouring with other natural flavouring’ – or why that will frequently be paired with ‘natural flavouring’ as a separate ingredient. Just how many times do they need to say it contains natural flavouring? And how are those things different? They said:

Thanks for your reply.

The safety and permissibility of a particular flavouring is governed by specific European legislation and likewise the way flavourings should be declared in a list of ingredients is mandated under European legislation.  We monitor existing and developing legislation very closely to ensure that our products are produced and labelled in accordance with current European and UK legislation so the way in which our flavourings are printed on the pack, is done so in line with strict regulations.  A flavour can still be natural without having to reference the ‘natural’ in the UK but we try to include natural where we can, so if it has been omitted then it is likely it is artificial.

As their very name suggests and as defined in European legislation, ‘flavourings’ are added to foods to impart odour and or taste.  Within an ingredients list, the main ingredients reflected in the product name or highest percentage ingredient must be listed, along with any other ingredients that give the product name it’s taste characteristics or allergens. 

Take for example our Mango & Strawberry infusion (https://www.twinings.co.uk/tea/fruit-herbal/mango-strawberry-20-tea-bags).  Within the ingredients list it states ‘Natural Strawberry Flavouring with Other Natural Flavourings (10%).’  This part of the ingredients makes reference to the main strawberry element of the infusion as indicated by the product name and is listed as ‘Natural Strawberry Flavouring’; however to achieve a stronger strawberry flavour we mix ‘Other Natural Flavourings’ which is then added to the overall infusion as a separate component.

Within this infusion we also have listed ‘Natural Flavourings (10%)’ which does not directly relate to product name, however, as there is no ‘Natural Mango Flavouring’, with mango being referenced in the product name, the ‘Natural Flavourings (10%)’ are a combination of ingredients to help produce a mango-like taste character.

I hope this information helps, but if you require anything further, please don’t hesitate to contact me again.

So, there you have it – convoluted as it is. We love this customer services agent for putting so much effort and thought into trying to explain this to us…though it does beg the question: what will happen to the ingredients lists on UK tea bags following Brexit?


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Twinings Caramelised Apple Green Tea – There Are Better Apple Teas Out There

Twinings Caramelised Apple Green Tea - Reviewed at If Teacups Could Talk...Brand: Twinings

Flavour: Caramelised Apple Green Tea

Ingredients: Green tea, natural flavouring (14%), cinnamon (1.5%)

Caffeine Factor: Caffeine-free

Organic Ingredients: Unknown

Price Range: £2.69

Bags Per Box: 20

Review: This is a tea that, at least in smell, lives up to its name. You definitely get that nostalgic aroma of toffee apple on a stick, or toffee apple pie, or even apple crumble with toffee sauce. Mmmm…. The scent is lightly spicy and quite pleasant just to have in the room. It immediately brings to mind autumnal evenings with the lights turned low, the wind outside blowing the browning leaves off the trees and scattering them over the streets.

Such a shame that you can hardly taste any of that. It starts out alright – a bit smoky, no doubt from the toffee flavouring – but then it’s quite bland. Happily, it’s not as bitter as normal green tea, but the apple is also subtle – too subtle. We frequently find this is the case with apple teas. Unless it’s done just right, the apple can be watery and flavourless.

What started out so promising turned out to be not bad, but just…not anything. There are much better apple blends on the market. You won’t hate this Twinings offering, but you’d be better off spending the money on something that truly tastes of apple.

Best time of year to drink this: Autumn.

Best time of day to drink this: Evenings.


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Twinings Lemon Drizzle Green Tea – WHAT were they thinking!?

Twinings Lemon Drizzle Green Tea - Reviewed by If Teacups Could Talk...Brand: Twinings

Flavour: Lemon Drizzle Green Tea

Ingredients: Green tea, lemon and cake flavouring (4%), natural flavourings, lemon peel (1%)

Caffeine Factor: Caffeine-free

Organic Ingredients: Unknown

Price Range: £2.69

Bags Per Box: 20

Review: Weird, weird, WEIRD. You know that seriously fake-tasting children’s birthday cake that can only come from a box of cheap cake mix? You know what we mean. If you made a cake from scratch, you would NEVER manage to recreate that unique flavour that you loved so much as a child, but now it probably tastes faintly disgusting. We have no idea what goes into those mixes to give them that taste – but it’s somehow in this tea.

It starts in the smell: lemon cake…the cheap ‘yuck’ kind. Like Lemon Puffs: cheap biscuits filled with artificial lemon-flavoured cream. The taste is equally unpleasant: initially fresh, like lemon peel and green tea – then a shocking aftertaste that is just like that children’s birthday cake mix, mingled with a horrible bitterness from the green tea.

This is quite simply one of the most disgusting things we have ever tasted. Why did ANYONE think this was a good idea? When has anyone ever had cheap cake and thought, ‘I know what would make this better: soaking it in green tea!’ Was it someone’s misguided idea to try to get kids to drink tea, not considering that it might keep them up all night? WHO voluntarily buys a whole box of this stuff and happily drinks it?

If you’re reading this, Twinings, there is no excuse for this blend. NO EXCUSE.  We’re marking this one as an AVOID.

Best time of year to drink this: NEVER.

Best time of day to drink this: NEVER.


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Twinings Fudge Melts Green Tea – Boring with a Bad Aftertaste

Twinings Fudge Melts Green Tea - Reviewed by If Teacups Could Talk...Brand: Twinings

Flavour: Fudge Melts Green Tea

Ingredients: Green tea, natural flavouring (8%), natural vanilla flavouring with other natural flavourings

Caffeine Factor: Caffeine-free

Organic Ingredients: Unknown

Price Range: £2.69

Bags Per Box: 20

Review: As you would expect, the smell is fudgy…and sort of green tea-y.  Tasting it, the flavour is almost entirely green tea, with a very faint hint of artificial vanilla that lingers long afterward.  This provides just enough sweetness to take away the bitter edge of the actual tea, although it leaves you wondering what you can do to take away that taste of flavouring.  Then there’s a citric acid-like kick at the back of the throat – a sort of sourness, almost like grapefruit.  Bizarre.

You might have noticed something missing from that description: fudge.  We couldn’t taste it at all.  Far from being the gross-fest we anticipated, this blend is, at best, boring with a bad aftertaste.  You may as well buy plain green tea.  Besides, why does anyone drink green tea, other than to feel healthy?  All that flavouring defeats the purpose.  If you really want a chocolatey drink without the calories, there are plenty of better infusions made with real cocoa shells.

Best time of year to drink this: If you must…maybe winter.

Best time of day to drink this: After lunch.


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Twinings Chocolate Coconut Green Tea – A Bounty Bar with Health Benefits

Twinings Chocolate Coconut Green Tea - Reviewed by If Teacups Could Talk...Brand: Twinings

Flavour: Chocolate Coconut Green Tea

Ingredients: Green tea, cocoa nibs (10%), chocolate and coconut flavourings (10%), natural flavourings, dessicated coconut (1%)

Caffeine Factor: Caffeine-free

Organic Ingredients: Unknown

Price Range: £2.69

Bags Per Box: 20

Review: Another bizarre-sounding concoction from Twinings in an effort to make cheap green tea more palatable.

The smell is intensely sweet, with the overpowering aroma of artificial coconut – like a Bounty bar, full of sugar. There is just the faintest hint of cocoa, and the green tea smell is entirely absent.

Unsurprisingly, the actual taste of the green tea is subtle. This blend is not bitter at all. Happily, it’s not as sweet as we expected, either. There is a faint taste of cocoa on your first sip, but it quickly disappears. And then there’s that artificial coconut flavour, which is not as strong as we thought it would be, but it does linger long after you’ve finished the cup.

There were mixed feelings about this blend. Ginger Tea said, ‘I could drink this – I never thought I would say that.’ Three Tulsi’s son tried it and said, ‘I don’t know why you’d want to drink this.’

So maybe it comes down to how much you love Bounty bars. If they’re your thing, and you’d like the health benefits of green tea without actually having to taste it, then this might be for you.

Best time of year to drink this: Summer, maybe.

Best time of day to drink this: After lunch.


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Twinings Cherry Bakewell Green Tea – Like Drinking Marzipan

Twinings Cherry Bakewell Green Tea - Reviewed by If Teacups Could Talk...Brand: Twinings

Flavour: Cherry Bakewell Green Tea

Ingredients: Green tea, natural cherry flavouring with other natural flavourings (10%), natural vanilla flavouring with other natural flavourings (2%)

Caffeine Factor: Caffeine-free

Organic Ingredients: Unknown

Price Range: £2.69

Bags Per Box: 20

Review: We read out the name of this tea to Three Tulsi’s mother. She said, ‘Ewwww, that sounds disgusting!’ And she’s right. It doesn’t help, either, that it genuinely smells like mould spores, when you brew it – mould spores and marzipan – or maybe a damp dishcloth that’s been left a long time…that was used to clean up after making something with marzipan. (We’re really selling this, yes?)

Thankfully, it doesn’t quite taste like that. It’s almost entirely marzipan (strongly so), and there’s a bit of green tea flavour underneath, but no dishcloth or mould spores. Sadly, no cherry, either. There is strangely no aftertaste, and it has a nice smooth finish. So it’s not as awful as we expected. It’s just…why would anyone want to drink marzipan!?

We offered some to Three Tulsi’s son, who described it as: ‘zingy – not too much flavour, but it’s quite nice…but it’s doing things to my tongue, now…oh! No no no no.’

All in all, if you really love marzipan, this might be a good, healthy sweet treat after lunch to get you through the rest of the day. If (like us) you think marzipan belongs on a cake, not in a cup, maybe give this one a miss.

Best time of year to drink this: Hard to say…autumn?

Best time of day to drink this: After lunch.


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Twinings Moroccan Mint – Green Tea Without the Bitter Edge

Twinings Moroccan MintBrand: Twinings

Flavour: Moroccan Mint

Ingredients: Green tea, spearmint (30%), natural cardamom flavouring, other natural flavourings

Caffeine Factor: Caffeine-free

Organic Ingredients: Uncertain

Price Range: £1.50

Bags Per Box: 20

Review: The aroma of this blend is very earthy.  You can really smell the young tea leaves, as well as the strong wakeful scent of spearmint.  It’s a bit like an Extra chewing gum, but with a hint of green.

The taste is similar.  We think it’s an excellent alternative if you want to get into green tea for detox reasons, but find it too bitter.  It’s great for waking up in the morning, not just because of the caffeine hit, but also because of that refreshing feeling in your mouth after you drink it.  For that reason, we also recommend it after lunch, to cleanse the palate and revive you for the afternoon.

Best time of year to drink this: A great all-year-rounder.

Best time of day to drink this: Mornings (to wake you up) and after lunch (to refresh your mouth).


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