Posts Tagged With: Preparation of tea

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

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

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.


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

How do you like your tea?

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.

Categories: Basics of Tea | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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