Saturday, 13 September 2014

Canton Tea Company: Sugarcane Black

After a morning of housework I really fancied a black tea today. I wanted something strong and robust, something to hit the "spot" whatever that "spot" was. I also wanted to write about something special today, so I decided to review Canton's Sugarcane Black.

Sugarcane Black is a black tea that comes from China. It gets it's unique name, and equally unique taste, from the fact that a special red cane sugar from Yunnan is mixed with water and added to the tea during the early processing stage of the tea's production.

As this was a tea I had not experienced before I followed instructions on the packet to the letter. I added two teaspoons of tea to the infuser, let the kettle boil and then cool for a minute or so and then brewed for three minutes exactly.

The tea itself has rather long and curly leaves as you can see above. When opening the packet it had a slightly nutty and woody taste. It's also very dark in colour.

When the tea was fully infused it was really, really black. I don't think I've actually seen a tea so black before. It was gorgeous to look at and gorgeous to smell.

Upon tasting this tea I was delighted to find that it is strong and pleasantly fulfilling - exactly what you expect from a good quality black tea, and this tea is of a very high quality.

So, how did the sugar cane affect the tea? Well, it did so gloriously well. The sweetness is rather odd in as much it certainly does not taste like you had added the sugar to the tea after it had brewed. It was like it was part of the tea itself, like it had grown inside the tea. So the sweetness is very reminiscent of the sweetness you have with rooibos tea.

Due to the sweetness this is a very mellow, relaxing, calming tea. It's indulgent and hugely different to any other kind of black tea that I've had before.

On the first infusion the sweet taste was very prominent. However, on further infusions (and I infused this tea three times) though there was a background sweetness remaining but that was when you got to experience the lovely Chinese tea so with this tea you get the best of both worlds - sweetness, then a nice mellow flavour that is rich and comforting.

This is a very special blend. Even if you get a taster from Canton that is enough for five cups everyone should experience this tea - even if it's just once!

The only caution I would give with this tea is be very exact for who long you brew this. This has the potential to turn slightly bitter if overbrewed. Also, try to drink the tea hot as it cools it can become a little sharp.

Sugarcane Black is a unique tea that was lovely to taste and try. I was genuinely surprised I liked it as much as I did as I'm not the worlds greatest rooibos fan, and this is the tea nearest to Surgarcane Black, but I enjoyed it hugely and as much as I love green tea this made a really lovely change.

I feel this tea would be wonderful to serve as a after dinner drink to guests that perhaps do not like coffee. As with most black tea's it's slightly heavy so wouldn't be suitable to serve with lighter meals. But it's perfect to have curled up on the sofa watching a good film or reading a good book.

I'm really impressed with Canton Tea Company as a whole and this tea is just as much a impressive tea as any other that I've tried.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Does Limited Choice Mean Limited Taste?

This morning I was fortunate enough, whilst doing the weekly shop, to be able to browse the tea aisle in my local Tesco's. Normally, I follow the list, throw what I need into the basket, serve myself at the self service till, then it's onto the next shop.

I had a little bit of extra time so stood in the tea aisle and had a good look around, something I've not done in ages. My local Tesco's is a Express and is fairly small. However, in all fairness, the tea aisle (though significantly less then the allowance for coffee!) is quite large compared to the actual size of the shop. 

What frustrated me hugely whilst looking at the shelves is the ratio of the amount of tea compared to actual choice. I was quite annoyed to see shelves and shelves of the same blend, in effect making customers have a choice of only four or five tea's.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Tetley or Yorkshire Gold or PG Tips. People will always have their favourite tea and favourite blend.  Rather, my annoyance was because there was a staggering four shelves reserved for packs of Tetley 100's meaning other blends were being squeezed out. It rather reminded me of a horrible weed taking over the garden and strangling, and then killing off, the pretty flowers. 

Where once the choice of products from Twinings was quite extensive, I was saddened to see the selection of tea available has halved. Likewise with Teapigs. One or two of their blends had disappeared.

I was also staggered that the choices of loose tea were down to just two! Twinings Earl Grey and Yorkshire Tea. Staggering. So, what if you don't like Earl Grey and perhaps not keen on Yorkshire Tea. What would you buy then?

I left Tesco's deflated. I do not like one product trying to dominate the market, therefore limiting the choice customers can have.

It is because of this, that I have not brought tea from a supermarket in nearly nine months. In fact, I think the last actual tea I brought in a shop was Twinings Comforting Liquorice which was on special price after Christmas. As a tea lover that is astounding. I can quite safely say that almost all of the tea (bar a trip to Twinings shop in May) that I have purchased this year has been online. 

And that is down to solely one reason ... lack of choice.

On the internet there is a cornucopia of choice. There are sites that specialise in green tea, sites that specialise in herbal, black, fruit ... any tea that you like. One of my favourite online tea shops, and the only place I will ever buy my Jasmine Pearls is Kensington Tea Company.  Likewise, Northern Tea Company is ace for chocolate tea, darjeeling and oolong. Bluebird Tea is fantastic for exotic blends such as Cherry Bakewell and Lime and Cola. 

All of these online shops have brilliant choice and can really open up the doors so you can experience high quality tea mixed with perfectly blended flavours. Yes, you may have to pay a little bit more but in each of these companies, the tea that you drink are mini-experiences that are flavoursome and rewarding. 

So it saddens me that people who perhaps cannot get online only have the choice of a few blends, therefore they are being limited by companies that jostle for position on supermarket shelves. 

Since I've started writing this blog I've discovered some totally awesome companies out there. We have Wise Owl tea whose Bamboo tea is quite frankly sublime. You have The Tea Shed whose quality tea and funky packaging can really appeal to the younger tea drinker. 

Of course there would be no supermarket big enough to stock every blend from every brand in the UK that would be a impossibility. But please, supermarkets, offer your customers a little bit of choice in what they can purchase. You may just be surprised how a little bit of choice can spur customers on to making a purchase they perhaps were not planning.

People shop with their eyes, so by displaying teas in all their varied and wonderful packaging you will have impulse purchases. And if a tea is good enough it will hook your customers in and will continue to buy the things they like. 

Well, that's my musings on what could be a ideal tea world!



Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Teafields: Silver Rose White Tea

A couple of weeks ago, luxury tea company, Teafields mentioned on Twitter that they were looking for bloggers to test some of their tea. I contacted them and rather happily I received a nice little bundle of tea samples.

The first tea I've chosen to review is their Silver Rose White Tea. I have tried rose tea's before. However, they have all been black teas and I was desperate to see how rose would work with white tea.

Upon opening the packaging I was delighted. The scent of rose is very strong and as you can see in the photograph below, the quantity of rose included in the tea is substantial.

I have to say that this tea is probably one of the prettiest tea's to look at. The rose buds are tiny, very sweet and colourful. It's such a delicate looking tea and the rosebuds resemble china. Very pretty indeed.

I filled up my infuser with a teaspoon of this tea. I let it infuse for three minutes. When fully brewed it formed a very pretty light green colour.

I have to admit I was slightly concerned as the aroma was so strong I wondered if all I would be able to taste is rose and would the rose flavour be overpowering?

I need not of worried. The tea is so gentle and delicate it really is quite stunning. I feel that rose really works well with the delicate taste of white tea. I find, sometimes, that when rose is blended with black tea it can be quite heavy, but this is very light and perfect for a summer's drink.

The rose tastes utterly natural. It is not synthetic and it is not perfumed. The white tea base is very light and fragrant.

Silver Rose White Tea is light and refreshing. It is perfect for an afternoon tea or ten minutes of utter bliss where you can put your feet up and really enjoy it.

It's a really feminine tea. Not that I mean men can't drink it of course, but this tea deserves to be in your best china. I'm drinking it from my trusty mug but somehow that doesn't feel right. This deserves the best of everything from the china you serve it in to the cake or biscuits that accompany it.

I have decided that rose works far, far better with white tea then it does with black. Of course I enjoy the black tea blends but it suits, far better, a nice quality white tea. The two flavours are delicate enough not to outdo one another, whereas in the black tea blends the flavour of rose has to be strong to compete with the strength of the black tea which in turn means, at times, it can taste a bit artificial and man made.

I am so lucky to be able to taste this wonderful tea. I would highly recommend you purchase this fabulous blend.

I am very much looking forward to trying the rest of the tea's Teafields have sent out. A very enjoyable journey coming up I think!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Love This Little Find On Twitter ...

I was having a nose around on Twitter this afternoon and found this. I loved the wording on it, and it made me laugh.

I think it sums up what a great many people feel about tea. Somehow, there is a comfort from tea that you don't get from coffee.

It sooths you during the hard times and adds magic to the good times.

I cannot add any more then that.

The Thames Tea Company: Pai Mu Tan (White Peony)

Strangely, I noticed recently that I've not featured much white tea on this blog in comparison to the amount of posts that feature either black or green tea. It's not that I dislike white tea, in fact it's quite the opposite, I really like it. However, the amount of time you need to invest in white tea to make a perfect cup of tea is substantial compared to other sorts of tea.

Firstly you need to let the water cool for at least two minutes after boiling otherwise you'll scorch the delicate leaves of the tea. Secondly, you need to brew it for a short time and be fairly exact on that time otherwise white tea can become bitterly undrinkable.

This morning, whilst I was in the middle of a hours workout, I suddenly had a desperate urge for a cup of white tea. And I'm a firm believer that you must indulge yourself if your body is craving a particular item. So, I decided to brew a cup of The Thames Tea Company's Pai Mu Tan.

The Thames Tea Company are a fantastic tea company that stock lovely loose tea's. They sell black, green, white and oolong. In addition they stock short season tea's and stock tea's from a varied amount of regions. Earlier this year they kindly sent me some tea's to sample and the lovely Pai Mu Tan  was included within the samples.

As you can see in the photo above this tea has a really different appearance. It's almost twig like in appearance and the tea leaves themselves are quite large. I put two teaspoons of white tea into the infuser. After the water boiled I let it cool for two minutes and timed it exactly to brew for four minutes.

The tea brews to a dark amber colour and the tea has a almost nutty aroma which is quite familiar from other white tea's that I've tried.

When I settled down to drink the tea I was quite pleasantly surprised that this white tea, unlike others that I've tried, is quite meaty. Normally, white tea is very delicate but this has body and packs a bit of a punch which was really different to what I was expecting.

The tea itself is very mellow and smooth. It has a lightness about it that makes it very refreshing and perfect for a warm summers day. There is a ease to drinking this, and the texture is silky which makes the drink quite moreish.

I love how it makes my mouth taste too, it leaves a aftertaste, but one which is pleasant and tasty.

I really loved this blend of white tea. I have tried flavoured white tea's which are pleasant but overall I prefer white tea to be pure as it has such a lovely, unique taste of it's own.

Recently, I heard from a friend who recently married that she gave out small pouches of white tea as wedding favours. I think that is a fantastic idea. White tea is a tea that I think will appeal to most tea drinkers. It's much lighter then black tea, but doesn't have the qualities that green tea has that can put some people off drinking it. In fact I would say that white tea is a bridge that gives you the best of both worlds - a decent cup of tea, but, without the grassy elements that make people dislike green tea, but, at the same time, has some of the health benefits you get from green tea.

I loved Pai Mu Tan because it was a bit more sturdy then your average white tea, but, is still nice and delicate at the same time. It's a wonderful tea that is tasty.

Congratulations to the Thames Tea Company for their lovely and very enjoyable white tea. It was a honour to be able to taste it!