Posts Tagged With: tea

Twinning’s Honey and Vanilla Tea

While on holiday in Australia I like, as always, to sample the wide variety of beverages available to me. This includes tea, and often while out shopping I will grab a small ten pack of individual bags from the Twining’s range.

Twinings Honey and Vanilla

Such a stunning wee box

This innovative pack size is wonderful for me as it allows for the ability to sample several different types and styles within the range without breaking the bank, or requiring additional storage of the leftovers… Why this has not been rolled out to New Zealand yet, I do not know.

The Honey and Vanilla tea is right on the mark, the balance has been while struck so as not to overpower the tea, but to complement it with honey notes on the tongue and lingering vanilla notes on the back of the palate. But yet it is still not overpoweringly too sweet, but unlike other attempts at a boutique tea, It is not trying to mask, but complement the tea leaf used, and as such you still get the robust English breakfast Assam blend just there in the mix without too much thought

The blue willow pattern is a classic, and an absolute favorite of my mothers, If i could find the Twining’s Honey and Vanilla English Breakfast loose leaf to sample, I’d dust off the whole set. .

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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…


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.

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

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

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

A week without lactate of bovine: Searching for a soy mate.

A very fine lass I regularly drink tea with has the unfortunate condition, she is somewhat intolerant of the delights that megacorp Fonterra produce. During our latest tea drinking session the idea was floated to find a compatible tea that works well with a good soy milk, being a fearless individual over the age of 18 years I took up this challange.

From what I can recall from the conversation, soy milk selection comes with many pitfalls; there is a scale from delightful warm nutty flavours to what was simply described as ‘Green’. What is Green flavour you ask? It’s that dusty mildew smell of black-green mold, the taste you would expect from licking the dashboard of a vintage car left sitting in the shade for a couple of decades… the common odor of any flat during the deep misty winters in the swamp called Hamilton. So rather than play Russian roulette in the supermarket I called on the milk free experts and was put onto Pams Soy milk, which as I was informed, is the most student friendly on price and by far leader of the pack when it comes to not greenlyness.

Once I had obtained my carton of milk substitute, I cracked the top and made my first cuppa… the first of many that I either suffered through or delighted in. Below are my top and bottom selections.

The best:

The best of the bunch

NZ breakfast: Good balance of flavours, unique tea flavours stand out above the soy with the distinctive character it has well identifiable without masking the soy, worthy of mention too was the NZ earl grey which too stayed true to its intended flavour.

Twinings Lady Grey tea: Stellar, the flavour is indistinguishable from a milked tea. I suspect that there is an interaction with something in the tea, much like the English breakfast cancelling out the soy, but in this case the citrus peel in the lady grey masks the bitterness.

Dilmah Exceptional Lively lime and orange: at first it was a bit dish watery (lemony with a thick gloopy flavour afterwards) but as it settled this took on a lovely ginger note and became a very pleasant experience best described as drinking a Gingernut biscuit.

The Worst.

Choysa (Square): Fish. Mixing soy milk with Choysa tea produces fishy flavour. It’s as though somebody soaked a cod head overnight in the kettle and filled the teabag with tuna flakes. Still, it is drinkable, however combined with the thicker texture imparted by the soy milk, I’d sooner drink the brine from a fishmongers chopping board.

Twinings English Breakfast: Loses the nutty soy finish, however… then releases a strong taste of chloride in the finish which appears as the tea cools for about 10 minutes before slowly dissipating. Otherwise it was sub-average if not a bit watery towards the end.

Dilmah Irish Breakfast: I had high hopes for this particular blend as it was a stronger brew and thus I was hopeful the tea would come out above the soy unfortunately, it was reminiscent of the Choysa… but better than in the sense the floral and fruity notes were distinguishable, followed by a hint of fishiness.

Honourable mention for resurrectional properties.

Dilmah Exceptional Earl grey tea: When first tried this particular tea I found the bergamot so overpowering and destructive that it was launched to the back of the cupboard in the hopes it would never see the light of day again. I resurrected this to see if the soy would transmute this vile beverage into a drinkable form…The most destructive part of this tea is the dry sour flavour left in the mouth on the finish. The nuttiness of the soy, however, counteracts this and makes the tea palatable, I daresay… enjoyable.

A final note…

when it comes to soy milk in tea I found it best to brew strong, and then leave it to develop for a few moments as this helps to let the flavour evolve into its final form. The flavour outcome is also difficult to predict by quality of leaf or intended flavour, as demonstrated by the fish Choysa, but it can have unexpected pleasures, so experiment first.

Categories: Basics of Tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Suffering for the sake of the many… Finding an Earl Grey standard.

For as long as I can remember, the Earl grey has been a tea that I have personally looked down on as a cheap way to hide inferior leaves. As such on seeing the steaming cup of grey fluid, and then smelling the sour orange of the bergamot tree would normally either ask for anything but the same tea, or a glass of cold water. But in the sake of making an honest attempt to understand and comment on how to approach the budget tea market, I have soiled my lips with the poisoned chalice so that If forced to buy a grey tea, you can chose one that will not kill, but only maim.

Earl grey Is flavoured by the fruit of the Citrus bergamia; A lemon like fruit similar in sourness to the grapefruit, grown almost exclusively by the Ionian sea in Reggio di Calabria, Italy. Originally, it was added as a form of treatment for malaria, but like all things some tasteless souls found it likeable and chose to drink it as something other than medicine. Speaking of medicine, Earl grey is known to have the same interaction effects as grapefruit does on a range of medications in large volumes and after about 4 litres in a single day can be toxic…

Down at the local Pak’n Save, I proceeded to buy up the whole Twining’s range of teas (they were on special, and included three grey teas). Added to the Dilmah essentials earl grey that I already had at home for some strange friends I have who drink it almost exclusively, and the handful of single serves of Dilmah Earl grey acquired from various hotels around the nation, I began in earnest to find an earl grey that I can describe as tolerable.

I settled on the Twining’s Earl Grey as the benchmark. It has a soft buttery finish, and the bergamot is not as overpowering as the Dilmah varieties. I did enjoy the flavours of the NZ Earl grey tea also done by Twining’s, but I will discuss that one in a later post.

What was a bit of a shock, however, is that the grey tea’s have grown on me somewhat. Despite the fact I cannot really handle them without milk just yet (the correct method for the drinking of earl grey as instructed by two very English gentlemen) I have found an appreciation for them. In the future I will most likely not turn my nose up so quickly, but they are still not my preferred cuppa.

Categories: Basics of Tea, Grey tea, Tastings | Tags: , , , | 3 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.


Dilmah 100% Ceylon tea from a teabag.

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

The basics of Tea preparation: Bag in a Cup (Part one)

Whether visiting friends and family, attending a conference, corporate, or social event, odds are I am about to be insulted with what can best be described as the most dire of situations… a bad cup of tea. Now any hot drink guzzler would scarcely notice the differences in their ineptly prepared concoction, but to a semi trained beveragist, the differences become glaringly obvious. Firstly, I believe it is necessary to explain how tea it is supposed to be done, so those things that grind my gears will make some semblance of sense. I will address the varieties of tea blends in time, but for now  I will start with preparation as this can make or break the best of leaves.

Step one: throw out the old water in the kettle.

One of the interesting little quirks of water is that it changes after every boil. This effects how the leaves in the bag respond and oftentimes can change the taste dramatically. Some connoisseurs even go so far as to suggest only bottled spring water should be used… A tad too extreme for me, but using water from the cold tap is important; not only is this water less likely to be re-boiled to death in the cylinder, but it actually boils faster from cold too.

Step two: warm the cups.

During my childhood I had the good fortune to be raised with access to fine food and dining etiquette without the snobberly of actually being able to afford it. My lovely mother who runs her own blog , taught in a training restaurant and bar in back in Rotorua. Often times we would be called in to at first fill in empty seats on the slow nights, to being used as a credible threat to bring overconfident wait staff crashing back down to earth. In table service a cold plate chills any good meal, the same goes for hot drinks especially tea. A simple solution is to fill the cups with hot water from the tap while the jug boils (this helps remove residue from the cups too) or to fill with water from the jug, wait a bit, throw it out, and then put the bag in with the second fill.

Step three: Order of construction.

Bag first or water first? I generally place bag in first than add the water, but some others swear by not scalding the leaves… I will investigate this further in future posts to see if there is any real difference. If sugar or honey is to be added, I do this second; this aides in the dissolving of the sugar properly rather being left with a sickly sludge at the bottom of the cup. Then finally I add the milk.

Regardless of the type of bag used UNDER NO CIRCUSTANCES should the milk or sugar be added to the cup until after the bag has been given a chance to soak properly; one full minute at least should do, but for the correct soak time check the side of the box, different leaves develop at different speeds, much like people.

If the above steps are followed, a cup tea is near impossible to stuff up and provides a level playing field to allow the leaves to offer up their distinctiveness for fair assessment. Speaking of assessments, My first critique will be of the flat standard, Dilmah single origin tea.

Categories: Basics of Tea | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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