Generic Teas

Different teas and how they taste and compare.

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)

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

The Te Rapa tea party (Bell tea bags)

When it comes to having a cup of tea in the work place, generally it will be one of two varieties, Choysa, being the “favourite of New Zealanders for over 100 years”, is quite common, however, it is its equally well known, “oldest and all time favourite tea company” Bell that I have the most fond of working memories thereof.

In the bitterness cold of the Waikato I took up employment and a small, family owned and run liquor store in Hamilton. Here we had some interesting options as to what we could drink to refresh ourselves. In the summer it was the soda out of the fridge, or beer from the broken boxes that would otherwise have found home in the bargain beer barrel.  However, in the depths of winter, rugged up under 3 jackets to keep out the bitter cold from the constant southerly that rushed in the door, we would warm our hands round a mug of good tea… and if we forgot to bring it with us, a mug of grey coloured Bell. You see, in the wisdom of economies our lovely employer decided a bulk box of 500 bags would be ideal and never need replacing till the end of time… tea tends not to age so well once the pack is opened, and i am sure this particular box had been there since opening day some 20 years prior!

After a couple of months of suffering a plan was hatched after a fortunate leak upstairs made its way into the coffee room below; The leak seemed to be well isolated away from all valuables and well prevented from spreading by the somewhat ‘unfortunately’ housed box of bell. We make our declaration that the bell should be replaced with a superior alternative for the betterment of staff morale in general. But in what was sure to have been some kind of tasteless prank we returned the next day to find a shiny new box of bell on the bench. It remained untouched by the staff from that day forward…

Bell in comparison to is well known competitor, has a similar deep woody flavour (most likely due to the high amount of stalk tainting the leaves, common amongst cheaper brands). The big difference, however, is in the finish where it produces a dusty flavour giving the overall impression with what can be best described as ground up chalk dusters in small bags. Indeed, if you are looking for a tea that is New Zealand owned and blended this is the way to go, and as will be explained in later posts, this is essentially the generic tea of Twinings’s tea in New Zealand. Much like the Choysa,

I recommend this tea with just milk, otherwise it tastes like sweet chalk dusters.

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Choysa: Round vs Square, and then compared.

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.

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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.

Categories: Generic Teas | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dilmah Single Origin Ceylon (Bags)

When it comes to sampling tea, the Dilmah teabag is my yardstick for comparison, I therefore felt it best to gain a deep insight into this tea first. However, I was a bit too overenthusiastic and I had produced well over 3000 words on the topic, three documents, two blogs (possibly a third) and a spreadsheet! I have now painfully reduced this down to a little under 500 words…

I started drinking Dilmah after a long contemplative period standing in the supermarket looking deeply into what seemed to be a barrage of generic tea options. What caught my eye about Dilmah were the vacuum sealed leaves, and the statement of ethical practice. At the time I was going through a strong anti big-name-brand anything, and Dilmah came across to me as the little man standing up above the rest.

It is a pure black tea and thus contains no traces of bergamot; a citrus fruit used to flavour many blended teas. One to two minutes is all that is needed to make a typical mug strength brew, for larger cups, I would recommend the use of two bags, or the use of the extra strength variety (which I will look into at a later date). It takes a long time for the bitterness to seep out of the bag making this a very safe tea for the forgetful. The colour is deep amber with a hint of rust red, with the addition of milk this becomes a yellow-orange hue depending on the length of brew. Dilmah drinks well with milk, sugar, and honey, but can also be nice with a slice of lemon, or a twist of lime. The finish is polite and moves on after lingering just long enough to let you know it has done a good job, but before you realise there is a very slight hint of bitterness.

The bags can be reused at most up to three times if drunk as a black tea. A longer brew time is necessary with the second brew producing a sweeter flavour with less of the bold maltiness expressed the finish the first time round; I liked this second brew best with a little sugar as it made the tea taste of honeysuckle. If you are on a tight budget the third brew if left long enough brought in a very subtle floral notes, but the tea had started to cool considerably before it got to this stage.

There has been many a time where I have left a mug on the bench in the kitchen for upwards of 30 minutes with it still being drinkable, with i might add a notable involuntary twitch at the end; there is small amount of fine dust does get left in the bottom of the cup, If drunk too slowly this can cause the last mouthful to be quite bitter. I recommend not drinking this last bit if you have left the tea a bit too long; rather, leave this unsavoury deposit for the sink.

I intend to revisit this tea in future when I feel I have grown a better appreciation of it in comparison to the rest of the tea out there.

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Dilmah 100% Ceylon tea from a teabag.

Categories: Generic Teas | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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