Tastings

Earl Grey tea at Sierra

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If you look closely you can see me in the pot…

 

It is not often that I feel inspired to blog about tea in a mall,  but is a worthy exception.
The first cup had notes of lavender,  and the second a deep richness reminiscent of a dark roasted oolong with rich caramel notes.

The presentation was also immaculate and really made the experience… especially with the high backed armchairs… I will be coming back here again soon with friends.

 

Categories: Grey tea, Tastings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Twining’s Assam Bold

I just finished a box of the twining’s Assam Bold this morning… It will be sorely missed.

Twining’s have come out punching with this blend; it gives the Dilmah Strong blend a real run for its money. Described as the strongest in their range it almost lives up to its name; I believe the Irish is still just a touch stronger, and the loose leaf twining’s series contains some real cannons! It also happens to contain some of my favourite notes to be found in cup of tea… rich malty tones, and a splendid depth of character. My preference for this one is with milk; it complements the flavours very well and in a way helps to cut the tannin-y astringency to allow for an ease of exploration by the palate.

As you can most likely tell I like this new variety, so much so it could almost become a breakfast stable if the Russian Caravan was not occupying it at present. I may, however, get another box anyways for when I’m in a rush… or if I need a couple of bags to sustain me when staying over at a bean grinders hovel.

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(not)Russian(not)Earl Grey tea

Semester is over… Time to get back at the blog!

First up is Lipton’s rendition of a Russian Earl Grey, and it is about as plastic as tea gets.

My flatmates mother works and lives in Egypt, and on her recent visit back to New Zealand she picked up a couple of teas from the local markets. Lipton is big in the United States and is marketed and owned by Unilever. This particular blend is manufactured in The United Arab Emirates. So first off, its not Russian in origin, but blended to a ‘Russian flavor’. I strongly suspect the tea is picked in Pakistan for this blend being a unilever brand. Being a grey tea, it is also flavoured with Bergamot… well imitation Bergamot. So… it’s a London owned Pakistani tea manufactured in the UAE as a Russian blend containing fake bergamot… without even opening the box, I’m already concerned…

Each tea bag is individually wrapped and comes with a drawstring. The leaves are of a similar cut to other Unilever brands with an ample amount of stalkage within the leaves, there was also a heap of what looked like concrete or moldy leaf matter that on closer inspection, and going against my instincts, taste… turned out to be the Artificial Bergamot mentioned on the box.

The smell is quite pungent and chemically, with a very sweet citrus odor… I could not smell the tannins of the tea at all. And the flovour… ever had a swig of warm L&P the morning after a long binge drink orr picked up that bottle from the back seat of the car on a warm day? It tastes close to this… actually, it tastes worse than this, it’s a warm lemonade tea. No awesome Russian styling the Russian caravan by Twinnings, and nowhere near any grey tea I’ve ever had. I’ve had lemon teas that are less lemony, Heck, lemongrass and lemon is less lemony.

Categories: Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dilmah Revitalised (and not just the box).

Dilmah has, for many years now offered a range of specialty teas that in my youth I found great for exploring the different ways tea could be prepared. My first real branching out from the Standard was purely by little other than choice as in the motel, hotel, or conference venue where I was seeking a bag had only the Dilmah single serves of English Breakfast, or the Earl Grey tea. Now I did know other types of tea existed, at some point My lovely mother, or one of her friends had purchased the Twining’s selection box, which included five of each of their specialty range. I recall being fond of the Twining’s prince of wales… yet at the time, and even to this day it is only really accessible by buying the full sampler box. But I digress, The English Breakfast by Dilmah made its mark and I stuck with this peculiarity of specialty tea in either the Dilmah or the Twining’s range for some time.

Just recently I noticed that Dilmah had released new packaging while working down in Rotorua for the Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra, I had forgotten a packed lunch and made my way to the local supermarket. As is custom I checked out the tea range and discovered the Earl Grey had been re-released in a new box and wrote a review of it a few days later. A few weeks later I had managed to round up what I believe to be the full range.

I sure do hope the Irish tea Will be re-released too…

It took a bit of time to find them all, some places had not put out the new stock yet, others only had one or two from the range, but I found them all and spent up till today figuring them all out.

Earl Grey [Mild]

I covered this little gem a few weeks back, so rather than repeat myself you can find it here.

The Earl Grey Strong is well traveled; I have grey tea drinkers on stand by for tasting checks…

 

Earl Grey Strong

At first I thought that the Earl grey that had previously been completely undrinkable had been replaced, then I discovered the Strong Blend and just figured that it had been moved along. Not quite, the strong is bolder in its flavours, but the bergamot has been changed too. Gone is the heavy pungent punch of bitter citrus that previously gave a slight chemically aftertaste, and the slight butteryness from the mild is notable in the blend. Maybe I’ve just habituated to it… I suspect not and that a better source of the bitter fruit had been discovered and is now in use. There is also a slightly different blend of leaves than that of the Milder Earl Grey, It is reminisant of the Dilmah Strong blend found in a purple box (really need to get round to that one) and fitting for the bigger brother in the range. Definitely designed for the grown up earl grey drinker who can handle the stuff and if you are new to earl grey, stick to the mild at first.

Ceylon Supreme

This is a more robust form of the standard Dilmah tea, with more complexity, and more flavour. The previous version of this tea never seemed to brew well. I recall thinking at the time that it was that I just didn’t appreciate the subtleness of the delicate flavours. With this re-release I think I might have been right in that the previous blend was less than on par.

Both bags were added simultaneously. You can already see the colour difference…

It is also worth noting that this blend is far less forgiving than your standard blend of Dilmah, or the original release; many a time I have left the bag in just a little bit too long in the cup and returned to a tea that was bordering on undrinkable. It’s not a bad tea by any stretch of the imagination; it may even give the Dilmah Strong blend a run for its money… But if you distract anywhere as easily as I do HOVER OVER THE CUP UNTIL IT IS DONE, that way you won’t waste this brilliant example of what a Ceylon tea can be.

English Breakfast

A Gentleman I have known for the longest of time has been a regular drinker of tea for quite some time. I personally blame him for the establishment of my minimum standard and benchmark when it comes to a good cup of tea. He is a strong advocate of the monarchy over the meddlesome parliament in the colonies, Is the embodiment of Jiles from the Buffy television series, and owns a Union Jack Teapot.

The resemblance is somewhat uncanny, right down to the occult book filled library.

However the original English Breakfast tea disagreed with him, and although I could drink it, I too noticed the slight Ill sensation that came with the blend. This new version, however, lacks this sensation of Sea sickness after consumption.

It’s still not a favourite of mine, but it is a marked improvement over the original one (on the left). The newer blend (on the right) is not nearly as strong as the original, and this is evident in the Clarity of the tea, as well as in the taste. There was also a slight chlorine(?) notes in the original blend, these are no longer evident. The Ill sensation is almost completely gone (It took a bit of focus to notice it, and could in this case be psychosomatic), and overall I am left feeling that the newer version of this tea is a marked improvement over its predecessor.

English afternoon

Normally I had to raid tea caddies from hotels and motels to find this blend; It was never an easy one to find in the tagless 50 pack either(I believe now that it was not released). Yet it has gone mainstream in the re-release alongside the rest of the range and can be found in the brave few shops that stock the full Dilmah range.

My Victorian friend and I decided to give this one a run for its money and he noticed the Ill feeling creeping back on him… It was also reminisant in strength to that of the Old Ceylon Supreme in the range too, with a straw like flavour quality and a watery finish. Normally we drink tea with milk, and sometimes add sugar should we feel in the mood, but I am a bit more adventurous and gave this tea a second run with a slice of lemon.

The lemon works with this tea… Actually it compliments it quite well with the watery finish being covered nicely by the zesty lemon. I had big concerns for this one, it had combined two of the weaker traits of the old series into a single tea. But in the traditional afternoon tea sense, taken with lemon rather than with whitener and sugar we have a tea that is quite delightful. The lesson for today being not all teas can be taken with just milk, and/or sugar, and with a bit of experimentation even a lemon can come out on top.

Categories: Breakfast tea, Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tea worth stealing: Porter tea series (well most of it)

This series of tea is a locally blended and distributed to locations where single serve tea is needed. The manufacturer Healthpak has a strong Green strategy and vision which can be quickly identified by their Soap recycling programme.

It appears that they have also placed a decent amount of effort into the tea range that they provide to the motels, hotels, restaurants, and airline companies.

It comes in a rainbow of different flavours of which I have managed to acquire via devious means… well, accept for the English Breakfast and the Pure Ceylon.

As is only fitting I will work through each in some semblance of order starting with:

The Classic Blend

Carefully blended to reflect new Zealanders taste preferences is what the advertising claims and they have delivered. It has the well loved cheap tea flavour which includes the pine tree notes, but in a refined balanced manner, so well balanced, that the quality is on par, if not exceeds the Choysa round tea.

Overall this is completely inoffensive, and if anything to be respected for what it is, a hotel condiment. Bravo Healthpak!

The Earl Grey

I found this blend to be very inoffensive. I’ve not normally been a fan of grey teas; they are however, growing on me now that Dilmah has adjusted their blends in their Selections range. This one, in comparison to those I have tried would come across as weak to the Picard’s of this world.

For the non-regular grey tea drinker, however, the flavours are balanced well enough to not hide the flavour of the leaves (which I suspect is a Ceylon). To be able to identify this gives credence to the quality statement made by Healthpak and also makes me suspect that the blender of this tea range is not a grey tea drinker, and as such has not lost the ability to appreciate a good cup of ‘normal’ tea.

Peppermint Tea

This is considerably mild for as far as peppermint teas go, Its nice… just don’t expect it to clear your sinuses like the Twinings, Dilmah, or a homemade concoction from fresh herbs out of the garden does. This one I would have to say was the most underwhelming of the range, and I’d still rate it quite well too.

Lemon Tea

They weren’t kidding about this being a lemon tea… I left this one to soak for a tad too long (bout ½ an hour with the bag in) so I was expecting it to be a tanniny lemony monstrosity. I was pleasantly surprised to find it had not… Right to the last drop it was a lovely uniform lemon flavour that was not all that artificial tasting… then it hit me, this was not Lemon scented tea at all! it was a hot lemon drink! As there was not telltale signs of any tea leaf whatsoever in the beverage, I was left perplexed, right up till I rummaged through the bin to recover the little paper packet .

AH HA! It is an infusion of lemongrass and lemon, and a bloody good one at that.

Green Tea

Very pleasant to drink, it is a sencha style of green tea so has the toasted rice notes which add so wonderfully compliments the tea itself. It is almost on par with the free green tea one would expect from a sushi shop, and if I were to receive the porter tea at one of these establishments, although it would not jump out at me it would not feel out of place.

So in conclusion this range of Motel, Hotel, Restaurant, Aeroplane tea is surprisingly good, so if you happen to be eating, staying or flying anywhere in the near future empty the tea catty of every last bag and save it up for an emergency, or if money is getting stupidly tight like mine is, empty the tea stand at your local fast food joint (seriously tho, don’t do this… it’s not cool, and tea is really, really cheap. Like 200 bags for a couple of bucks… 1c each)

Categories: Generic Teas, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dilmah strikes back!

Some people hate it, other people love it. Peppermint has been used of what some suggest as well over 10,000 years for medicinal purposes, even to this day, but I’m not so interested in that. I’m more interested in the infused leaves floating in the water making tea.

I’m currently working on a much larger blog post covering a single range of motel teas well worth nicking. One of which is a peppermint tea, so for the sake of comparison and it being newly placed on supermarket shelves, I decided to give the Dilmah Exceptionals New flavour: Peppermint Leaves with Ceylon Cinnamon a run for its money. I was concerned due to the absolute trainwreck of flavours in the Pomegranate, Acai and Vanilla that proceeded it. The Peppermint and Cinnamon too is in a stunningly beautiful box reflective of the dark green peppermint leaves. It also smelt divine on opening, the silken pyramidal bags released a angelic sign of delightful scented wonder as they hit the water…

IT DELIVERED!!!

This is a smashingly well blended tea. I’ve had the box not more than 24 hours and I’ve basically been drinking nothing but… I’ve taken it to friends places… I’ve invited people over to try it and they have come away wanting to buy their own… I may even take up loitering in the tea Isle dropping the odd box into the trolleys of unsuspecting shoppers. Dilmah have produced a winner. After the bold, yet not overwhelming peppermint flavour begins to leave the palate the sweet woody cinnamon notes come to the fore lingering on until you take the next sip from your cup. I cannot fault it.

As such I recommend that even for those who are not big on peppermint tea to try this at least once, and for those who do buy two boxes as I really can’t see this staying in stock once the masses discover it.

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Ceylon: Dilmahs hammer of tea shattered.

The hedonistic marketing principles are all the rage in this day and age. You can get everything customised, individualised or at the very least get whatever you wish in a variety of colours. Tea has gone the same way. Dilmah, has embraced the market trends and has released teas in an ever expanding range from your classic varieties to the super premium T2 Brand. However, there comes a point where somebody has to step in and stop the marketing wiz kids before they go too far. In the case of the Dilmah exceptional, Acai Berry and Pomegranate real leaf tea… it may be too late.

The flavours on the palate are confused; the Acai mixes with Pomegranate to produce what can only be described as tutti frutti bubblegum flavour. The Ceylon leaf is not complimented by the addition of the flavours, and if anything it spoils the experience completely. The tannins take the expected berry experience with all its flair and turn it sour in the mouth leaving an unpleasant unripe grape skin notes (I shudder to think how bad this would have been without the addition of Vanilla to soften it). As such, under no circumstances use overheated water, or leave it to stand for too long with the bag in. The tea is also sweet on its own, I do not recommend the use of sugar at all as it will most likely lead to an undrinkable if not downright evil concoction.

In saying that I can see how it could have slipped by unnoticed; Acai berries have been all the rage having recently been touted as the next great ‘super food’; You find them in breakfast cereals, nut mixes, meal bars… from a marketing point of view the time is right. The stuff reads well off the box too, “tart, lightly sweet and occasionally chocolatey notes” It sounds like a winner. The smell is divine; deep rich and pungent berry notes hint at the tartness and the sweet berry flavours. Add to that the use of the luxury triangular tea bags, use of actual leaf tea, the stellar colouring… you can understand my shock when I tasted this.

The Acai and Pomegranate does however have good potential, and if it were up to me, I would not have used Ceylon tea as the base, but rather Hibiscus, or Apple.

Categories: Flavored black tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Out of the darkness, and into the light…

I must say, my previous experiences with the Dilmah earl grey were somewhat… unpleasant. I had put this down to poor selection of bergamot that assaulted my taste buds like a citrus based dishwashing liquid. This new release, Dilmah Single Region Selection Earl Grey is far less abrasive. Not as buttery as the twining’s earl grey, but a bit more edgy and dangerous. This is a surprisingly drinkable tea, and I am finding myself enjoying it black without milk or sugar.

I am sure you are all wondering how I can make these bold claims of advancement. Well I found a single serve Dilmah in foil tucked away in the emergency tea rations (yes, I have those) and the difference is very noticeable.

Dilmah Single Region Selection Earl Grey 50’s, sporting a new box with a big ol’ ethical tea business logo. Shiny.

If you’re wondering where I have been for the past couple of months I have been destroying my mind and eyes with graduate studies. The semester is nearing its end and I do intend to return to my beverage based reviews, commentary, and advice. But before that, I have two major exams left to conquer. Wish me Luck!

Categories: Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Greenfield Christmas Mystery

After my somewhat elated views on Christmas teas I decided to try another, just to see if Twinings had made a breakthough in Christmas wares or if others had achieved greatness.

Again I was surprised by the flavours, more so in the way both presented very differently in the end result. Greenfield teas produce Individually sealed foil bags which come in larger boxed packs of about 30 (I stole two bags of this tea out a friends pantry so I do not have a picture of the box… ) I can state that It was a bit busy on the exterior (much like the bag, only covering the whole box). What got me is that although they speak of all the different spices contained within on the back of the packet… however, they do not mention the star anise (nor can i taste it within the tea) I suspect, this was some advertising gurus way of selling the product due to it looking like a snow flake.

The tea itself was very sweet when prepared the same as the Twinings. It reminded me of Christmas cake, or wedding cake when prepared of the non-drinker. I suspect this is to do with the addition of citrus peel rather than just the spice. The perceived mouth feel is also less buttery and more crisp to the tongue with a slight citrusy finish which may be messing with the added milk. Maybe this tea will be better without milk and sugar.

The smell is divine and smells richly of spiced oranges, similar to the clove studded oranges found in wardrobes that I seem to recall from my youth… Deceptive would be one description for this tea. Bad wedding cake is another. It is at best watered down cordial (the cheap kind found on school camps). So If you are the kind of person who sits and smells a cup of tea only to find it stone cold hours later… this one is for you.

The only mystery this tea seems to have is the case of the missing flavour.

Categories: Tastings | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Christmas…

Every year without fail corporations begin to assault shoppers around the globe unrelentingly with Christmas carols by Evil-Elevator-Music-Inc, and release their wares developed in conjunction with the wondrous people at Tinsel-All-of-the-things. This generally produces a level of nausea only overcome by some kind of mind altering substance brought from a man wearing a Santa hat and lacking any front teeth…

Tea companies are no exception to the rule, and not more than a few weeks back I came across the Twining’s Christmas tea release. I walked past bitterly muttering under my breath words unsavoury for the joy and cheer of this time of year.

I decided for the sake of my blog, to try this demonic concoction which could only be expected to be some foul blend of an unenlightened cheap gimmick, and a brilliant way to dispose of a bad tea harvest by drowning it out in spices… then I saw the price tag, began a tirade of foul language that would make a Grinch blush, and promptly left the store.

On my third attempt I discovered not a box of the stuff to be seen. This was perplexing; generally this sort of stuff never moves until after Christmas day. It is seen at ¼ the price an large mountains… generally with a distraught looking sales man peddling the wares to whomever seems desperate enough. It dawned on me I may have made a mistake in judging this tea prematurely.

So after much hunting of supermarkets and on the verge of giving up I came across two solitary tins sitting in the tea section pushed well to the back, and partially obscured from sight. I grabbed one, swallowed my pride and brought it home hoping it was a spectacular failure and worthy of scathing ridicule. I was wrong.

This tea blew my mind away with every mouthful overwhelming my taste buds with flavours reminiscent of homemade Christmas mince pies. I can hear carols in my ears brought back from the smell of that particular blend of clove and cinnamon that make you think of Christmas crackers and brandy snaps. Following the directions on the box produces this effect, milk and one sugar. But if you want that sticky Christmas pudding flavour, try it with a bit of honey… it even leaves you feeling warm and satisfied, much like after a good solid Christmas feast.

For a long time I believed Twinings had lost their touch, fell afoul to the demons of corporate Christmas. I was wrong. Twinings makes great teas, brilliant competitive teas.

Categories: Tastings | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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