My original plan was to begin with my first critique on Dilmah as it is the flat standard, and a good quality drop. I decided to firstly set out to try Dilmah in all possible permutations in the hopes that I would be able to discover its unique flavour, What i discovered was that I have become quite used to the flavours and although I know it to be good, I cannot yet articulate exactly why! But all was not lost. I quickly found that although i could not pick out the specific flavours of the Dilmah, I did develop an appreciation for the many different methods of preparation. So, rather than make a foolhardy attempt at critiquing Dilmah on its own, I have decided instead to discover it gradually in comparison to other teas. I imagine over time I will uncover its strengths and weaknesses, where at the time that feels right, I will upload my notes accumulated from many, many comparisons.
Being of a scientific mind I set out to examine Dilmah in a methodical fashion; a methodology, I planned to replicate and refine as I sampled more varieties of tea.
Firstly I examined the effect sugar(0, 1, 2 and 4 teaspoons), then of milk and sugar(0, 1, 2 and 4 teaspoons). This would cover the different commonly drunk preparations with the 4 sugars to take things to an extreme in the small 200ml tea cups being used. I also wanted to test the effect re-brewing using the same bags would have on flavour (as a student, this is of most interest as every dollar matters), I decided to use three brews with all four levels of sugaring with and without milk. This gave me a total of 24 different cups prepared from 10 teabags. Finally, I wished to check how honey and lemon performed in tea. This was made up of lemon, honey, lemon and honey and milk and honey. This gave me a total of 28 cups of tea to consume, in two bouts of 12 cups followed by four additional cups.
Now I like my sleep. I like is quite a lot, but it is hard to sleep after consuming 12 cups of tea… 2.4 litres of what was mostly barely drinkable fluid left me with a caffeine/sugar high with the pressing need to pee right up till half past three in the morning. The next day after rising at 7, 9, and 11 all to empty a very full bladder, I decided to cut back to just the single re-brew, as after the second brew, there was scarcely any flavour, masked further by the milk. For this reason I only had 8 cups with milk.
The Effect of Sugar on Black Tea.
On that Ill fated evening I decided to undertake the first 12 cups on a very full bladder. I made them up from a pot using five bags and by following the instructions on the box the tea came in. This gave me four cups of equal strength tea to work with.
- (no Sugar) What i first noticed was that on its own, black, with no sugar the tea had a drying affect on the mouth, similar to that of drinking a dry wine. This dryness, I have discovered is caused by the absence of sweetness. The dryness ripples across the tongue followed by a malty richness that lingers well after the dryness has gone. Once the tea has lost most of its head the warmness of the malty flavours dissipates almost completely.
- (One Sugar) With the addition of one sugar, raisin like notes become apparent as the dryness is attenuated by the addition of the sugar. It is the only one i discovered to not be completely overrun in the finish by the sweetness of the sugar.
- (Two Sugars) With the addition of a second sugar, the dryness is all but gone, but the sugar begins to distract from the tea flavour.
- (Four sugars) A complete disaster with all but one redeeming feature. Once the tea cooled somewhat it at first tasted of a sweet dessert wine, or overripe sultanas… followed by overwhelming sweet.
The Effect of Milk and Sugar on Black Tea.
Around noon the next day I brewed up four cups of milked tea. I finished off three of the four cups with the NATO standard being commandeered by one of the flat mates early in the tastings. This was a most peculiar set of results; the tea darkened and lost the milk opaque appearance with the addition of more sugar. What was equally interesting was the effect on the flavour.
- (no sugar, milk) At first all I could taste was the milk with some of the tea flavours barely notable above the dairy which appeared surprisingly strong. At first I believed the tea may have been under brewed somehow but as i discovered in comparison to the second brew of the leaves it was indeed there.
- (One sugar, milk) I liked this one the best, the sugar cuts the milk flavour and brings the tea flavours to the fore without overpowering them. I was quite surprised at the time but in looking into the science it makes sense.
- (two sugars, milk (Also known as; milk and two, blonde with two legs, snow white and two Dwarves, Nato standard, or just House Standard.)) This concoction i found this sweet with funnily, a return of the dryness in the finish.
- (four sugars, milk) hypersweet, but drinkable, the dryness returns too, so I suspect that the milks influence is marginalised somehow by addition of sugar.
As a consequence I have decided to do a comparison of milk type on tea, again in the hopes of finding the perfect milk-tea match sometime in the future…
With lemon, and/or honey
Lemon is a traditional accompaniment of tea, and many producers of tea recommend honey over sugar. I found the addition of lemon to make for a very refreshing beverage, the addition of a little honey helped to keep the combination of tartness from the lemon and dryness from the tea in check.
The problem, however, is that honey itself adds new flavours that can mask the subtle flavours hidden in the tea… I have decided, therefore, to look into the different types of honey and attempt to identify the best match for gumboot teas. If there are a couple of stellar honeys, I may even use them regularly so as to identify which is best of which brand too.
Milk and honey is a common blend and i found it much the same as a ‘blonde with one leg’ only that some of the honey flavours were also present. I was using a multi flora blend at the time and it did tend to mask some of the subtleties of the tea, but no more than the milk already did.
From this little tasting I discovered that I liked the milk and one best, and the slice of lemon both with and without honey, and the honey and milk. I also discovered that Dilmah bag tea can be used up to three times… but you also have to be careful about how you prepare it… more on that later.
What will follow in the next post is the layout of how I hope to present each tea for ease of comparison; I have used Dilmah as the example. The tasting notes are rubbish, and most likely inaccurate as my palate is well accustomed to this tea due to regular binges. It will also be interesting to see how this tasting compares to the second tasting in the distant future.