Since time immemorial there has raged the great debate across the nation, a debate that to this day divides the Choysa drinking community. Which is better, the Square bag, or the Round bag? I set out in my quest to answer this question once and for all…
Firstly, I must express that I have always held a rather dim view of the generic tea market, particularly when it comes to [Insert Mega Corporation] and its ability to buy up [Insert wholesome well known patriotic brand] and slowly suck the life out of them. Choysa is, sadly, one of these poor lost souls.
I noticed that the Choysa range of teas were on special while out grabbing some supplies for an evening in front of the fire, so I decided rather than to go over what teas I already had at home, I would grab a small box of both the Square and the Round. The first test, determine the redeeming features of the Square bags and compare them to my gold standard of generic teas, the Dilmah.
The bags themselves are an unbleached, and from a distance both appear the same… However, on closer inspection the two bags can be easily identified; Choysa has chosen a bag material with large perforations in it, which according to both the Round, and Square box inscriptions, aids in the faster infusion of the tea. Ripping into the bags some more it becomes even more evident that differences exist. Not only is there a higher amount of stalk present in both Round and Square varieties, a coarser cut of the leaf is also evident between the Dilmah, and the two Choysa teas. Interestingly even before brewing differences exist in the quality of the leaves of the two Choysa teas (which from now on will be referred to was Square and Round), the Round leaves appear to have been either graded, or rolled whereas the Square appears to have been just chopped.
As to be expected with the differences in the leaves, both performed differently when brewed. Now I am a big scotch fanatic, and I despise the evils their poorer grain or corn brothers from across the Atlantic. One defining feature of bourbon whiskeys is the heavy woody flavour that can be best described as the flavours expected if you were to suck on a log. Square has this same woody characteristic, Round, not so much. Round as I have discovered is better balanced in its flavours and nowhere near as unsophisticated as its rough and ready brother. As I have a potential bias towards Dilmah over the Choysa well before starting this blog, I thought it necessary to ask the opinions of my fellow flatmates, and some other unwilling victims that have visited over the last week or so in a blind tasting between Dilmah and the Square. All immediately proclaimed after the first sip the Square as undrinkable, just plain wrong, or s%#t; I therefore decided most apt description of the Square to be ‘Beaver poop’ based on this new information and in proving itself inferior in both leaf quality and flavour quality, was as such eliminated from the running.
At this stage I can proclaim that Round is by far superior to the Square, and that bag shape has little effect other than to be able to tell the two different Choysa teas apart. But how does the Round compare to the Dilmah? Well, firstly the colour and strength of the two teas is indiscriminate by the size of the holes in the bag. I suspect that with the higher surface area in the Dilmah tea due to the finer cut of the leaves makes up for the finer weave of the bag fabric. That woody flavour that appeared to be balanced out also returns on comparison, and a new variable emerges, a slight sour taste in the mouth that lingers. As a black tea the Dilmah has proven its superiority with its distinctive floral notes expressing defiantly above the woody Round of the Choysa, but can i make the Choysa more palatable with the addition of milk or sugar? Yes I can.
The milk almost hides the sour after taste of the Choysa; you could almost mistake it for the milk having sat in the car a bit too long on the ride home from the supermarket. With the addition of sugar, much like the dryness in the Dilmah tea, the sourness is masked allowing the other subtleties to emerge, and in this case it is the woody flavours that come to the fore. As I am not much of a bourbon fan I make preference for the Dilmah, however I strongly suspect a fan of the barrel wash will most likely be able to enjoy a cup of Choysa Round, or even Square with the addition of one sugar to the Round or two for the Square. Maybe this also explains the origins of the milk and two standard; it is a good way to hide the sour and the dry in an unbalanced tea and allows for some virtuous flavours to be experienced.