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

Iced Tea for Beginners

Ever the adventurer I decided to give a relatively new Iced tea on the market. Although pleasant to drink it tastes a lot like flat L&P, so if you’re in the market for that kinda thing and don’t mind paying extra grab a bottle.

Maybe I should have lit that candle to add to the effect…

And now for a word of student wisdom:

  1. Buy a box of Twinings Lady Grey tag less bags
  2. Place one or two in the bottom of a plastic bottle
  3. Add cold water

This method is good for about an hour or so (the dregs can be a bit strong too, be warned!), and should save you a good $3.40 overall. In my opinion, it tastes a whole lot better too but, the other added bonus it you won’t be consuming the list-as-long-as-my-arm of chemical stabilisers, sweeteners, and other assorted nasty greeblies that make the shelf life last well past the second coming.

Categories: Basics of Tea | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Three levels of torment in one cup

Sometimes we are inspired to try new things, sometimes we ignore that little voice in the back of your mind telling you to stop. Last Night I ignored this voice.

I have some awesome memories from camping as a child. As a cub-scout, with mum and her rather large troupe of girl guides… with the family on the many road trips around the south island to meet distant kissing cousins. Often rained out there was always one saving grace to warm your bones.

This bad boy was there to warm you up, give you that shot of coffee with a good hit of sugar, and get you motivated to lift all of your gear off the ground and take the sleeping bags into the nearest Laundromat. Nowadays the toothpaste tube of coffee has been replaced by the single serve, just add hot water sachet.

All this semester I have seen these little sticks of doom. First in the O’week goodie bags, then outside the psychology office in a massive box labelled ‘free to a good home’, in the Waikato students’ union reception. These little monstrosities have been unavoidable. Today, I was given another handful by the WSU president in the Level 0 basement. I caved.

Nescafe 3 in 1 appears innocent enough… It is marketed as the penultimate coffee of those with very little time, or very little packing space, the coffee for the travelling salesman. The coffee for the camping man. As it is by far the cheapest (being freely available on campus) and by and large the most accessible hot beverage on campus, I gave the stuff a run.

The Stuff looked sick when made up. No really, a greeny brown colour… smelled kinda earthy too. I added a bit of cold water to make it drinkable and gave it a sip. Sugary would be my first call. Much Like other instant coffee it left my teeth squeaky. I was expecting this, but I was not expecting my teeth to start itching too (WHAT IS IN THIS STUFF?!). Checking the little bag it came in I could see no ingredient list. The Nescafe website lists “Soluble coffee with whitener and sugar”. Yet the image of the bag has what looks like a far larger list of things. However, after a bit more digging…

Sugar (52%), Whitener (38%), (Glucose Syrup, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Skimmed Milk Powder, Acidity Regulators (E340ii, E451i, E452i, E331iii), Milk Proteins, Vegetable Fat, Emulsifiers (E471, E472e), Flavourings, Anti-Caking Agent (E551), Stabiliser (E339), Salt), Instant Coffee (10%).

…What is all this stuff?!

I took another sip habitually while writing the above list out. This stuff was tolerable hot, but the good ol’ swig of the now warm toxic sludge… It reminded me of one of those little Asian power drinks with a ginseng root floating in it, but with a milky white scum layer. Sugary mud comes to mind. I tipped the rest in the sink and sought redemption.

Now I know that some of you out there are not big on the teas but I have become tolerant of your bean grinding ways, let it be said: no man, woman, or child should have to suffer the pain of drinking this 3 in 1 nasty beverage, save those whom have earned a place within the inner circles of Dante’s Inferno.

Sadly, I could not find it in the tube, but they do make it by the can!

This stuff is simple. Three ingredients on the list all up, Condensed milk, Instant Coffee, and Salt. Compared to the above its simplicity is profound, and the taste… amazing, Better than many coffees I’ve received from cafes. You can eat it straight out of the tin; it tastes like coffee hard boiled candy (the good Asian kind).

My recommendation, not that it needs to be said: stick to the simple, tried and true. Avoid the nasty 3 in 1 under all circumstances (Now to go eat the rest of the can with a spoon).

Categories: Coffee, Instant tastings, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Skinny cow better for Tea

For quite some time now It has been brought to my attention that the best milk for with a cup of tea is a trim milk one. So I have decided to put this to the test over the past few months taking note of the kind of milk used when out and about, and the taste of the resulting tea.

Now I’m a big fan of organic everything, and here in New Zealand, at least from what I can tell it is damn near impossible to get a trim organic milk without going to some specialty store. So for the longest time it has been either whole milk, or full cream milk, or something similar to a blue top milk (Standardised, homogenised milk). I discovered that unhomogenised full cream milk (whole milk) to leave a creamy film on the top of the tea. This is fantastic for a coffee, or a hot chocolate… but seems to produce a metallically, icky scum that spoils the tea (Cream in tea by the way, is most foul and unrecommended).

Your standard milk (Dark blue top, standardised and homogenised) is the run-of-the-mill go to milk for most households. And is generally what I get for various reasons: it tastes like milk on its own, a bit creamy (good butterfeel in the mouth), It goes good on cereal and works well in cooking and baking, generally by adding richness to the dish. Yet in comparison to a lite, or trim milk, the flavour of a cup of tea is soured slightly.

Sadly, due to its transparent bottle I have had to dispose of the standard due to the flash degrading the milk.

Today, I have been playing with this bottle of calci-trim on some Kenyan teas (more on that next post). As you can see from the picture, the two teas are different in completion with added milk (I used a two pot method to maintain consistency from this leaf tea, and added a single shot of each milk type for consistency), so too is the flavour with a more robust flavour for the trim, and no dairy aftertaste. This allows for a better appreciation of the tea from start to finish, so for the tea connoisseur, just brilliant!

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Why I cut back on the cheap tea

Hamilton city council, with all its infinite wisdom has decided to discontinue the addition of fluoride to the town water supply. Regardless of your personal views on this topic, the district health board/dental associations “Emperical’ evidence, or any other number of crackpot, tinfoilhat wearing conspiracy nutjob thoughts, there are some important points to remember about fluoride.

  • It artificially hardens your teeth (fluoride is not a required substance for life)
  • Fluoride is really, really good at killing bacteria (including those in your gut, hence we do not swallow our mouthwash/toothpaste)
  • Fluoride also accumulates in all areas where calcium does such as; bones, teeth, brain tissue, milk glands, tendons, sperm…

This is why there are limits placed on the quantity of fluoride in the water supply (1.0ppm in NZ, 2.0ppm in the US). Too much can lead to fluorosis of your bones and teeth making them brittle. This is not so much of an issue if you are an adult as there is lots of body mass for fluoride to disperse on. Not so good for children, even worse for babies. A good way to explain this is with another form of drug taken on a nearly daily basis, Paracetamol. The recommended dosage is ½ a pill for the kiddies and up to 2 for an adult, this is to prevent overdose and the same applies to fluoride. The NZ Ministry of health recommendation is that baby formula is manufactured with pure water, and that baby formula should not be made up with tap water. Otherwise baby’s teeth come out moulted, when grown children become prone to bone breakages, and at worst your kids baby teeth come out looking like three year crack addicts.

The tea plant, Camellia sinensis is
a known fluoride accumulator. Fluoride particles are taken up by the root system and distributed into the leaves, accumulating over time. As such the older the leaves are the more fluoride is within them. Generally, tea leaves are supposed to be picked in a very particular way (the bud, and the 4 or 6 leaves below it on the stalk). So with any high quality tea you can expect that there is a minimal amount of fluoride accumulated in the leaves in comparison to the older ones on the bush. It has been recently suggested that tea quality can be determined by examining fluoride levels in the prepared tea.

Some large corporations employ machines to pick the leaves, and just get ‘expert leaf sorters’, a loose term which translates to underemployed temporary labour hires in third world countries.( If you were earning 5c an hour, how hard would you be willing to check the right leaves were picked?). Teabag tea is also mulched to produce a quicker brew. This also allows the Fluoride to steep out faster too. As such the better the younger the leaf, the less chopped the leaf, the higher the quality of the tea.

This is one of the main reasons I cut back on my cheap tea exploits. I like my teeth, bones, and brain (not so fussed if my swimmers malfunction right now) and as such I decided to investigate deeper into the area before potentially advising people to drink rubbish tea. If you haven’t already guessed, ITS NOT GOOD FOR YOU.

As a result of these finds I have for the past few months drunk a considerable amount of loose leaf tea of varying quality and grades. A new fave of mine is the Zealong tea produced here in New Zealand. Organically certified and having been to the gardens several times and done the tour I can verify with my own eyes that these guys produce a stellar oolong tea, and to boot, the fluoride is likely to be very minuscule. I cannot say the same for the cheaper teas on the market.

Jury is still out on whether the HCC done goof removing the fluoride, I’m taking it as a sign to re-engage with dubious quality tea on a sample size basis, after all, I’m quite ok with crippled swimmers right now.

spermmod

Categories: Basics of Tea | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

Hazelnut latte

A major shift in the hot beverage preparation sector has occurred in the past few years towards quick convenient single serve sachets. It is as though the major brands have finally found a way to compete with the tea bag… to add value to this a variety of ‘luxury’ single serve coffees have hit the market, having now suffered through some good, and others woefully bad, I decided to include coffees onto the blog. Now I admit, I personally know little more than the average coffee sinner, and I doubt I will be unable to advance any farther than instant brands until the bean juice drinkers here in the flat get a machine installed, but i can at best attempted to steer you clear of the worst of the bunch. This one is the first to avoid.

Over the many years of study at Waikato University I came to appreciate a god cup of coffee. The available tea was in general overpriced and badly made, so I branched into the coffee scene. Not being particularly fond of the coffee flavour I chose to have a Hazelnut shot in mine and that became my beverage of choice for the longest of times. It therefore comes at no small surprise I decided to try Nescafe’s Hazelnut latte (the box is extra shiny).

I looked really good in the cup, lots of fine velvet looking froth and dissolved fairly well when mixed with hot water, smelt like a coffee should too but no hint of the hazelnut flavour. The taste was much the same to my disappointment, no hazelnut flavour at all, but it did taste kinda soapy, which a good friend and guinea pig kindly informed me is normal for instants (Added soap to help dissolve the coffee properly (this also explains the soap suds foam on top, and the squeaky clean sound my teeth now make).

The coffee was not that strong either… but at least it didn’t taste burned. In future I’d rather buy a bottle of hazelnut syrup and add to taste than deal with the little packets of doom dust.

Categories: Coffee, Instant tastings | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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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